Stranded OFWs at the 'Tent City' in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia awaiting repatriation. File photo
Stranded OFWs at the ‘Tent City’ in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia awaiting repatriation. File photo

THE ATTENTION given to a menace that is causing havoc to the lives of some of the overseas Filipino workers especially those working and living in the Middle East was not enough given the scale and effect to a number of OFWs.

This is because we have not heard any concrete program by the Philippine government through its agencies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and its diplomatic posts, and the Philippine Overseas Labor offices (POLOs) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) offices abroad, both adjunct agencies to the Department of Labor and Employment, collaborating with the host government to curtail a menace or prevent the unnecessary loss of the lives of some OFWs who were engaged in devious activities leading to their own demise, if not very deplorable situation. Though, there were recent advisories issued by at least the two PH diplomatic posts in the Middle East cautioning OFWs to shun away from this vice and deviant activities.

In an exclusive report by GMA News online (http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/541173/news/pinoyabroad/60-of-203-detained-pinoys-in-saudi-s-western-region-facing-drug-charges) posted October 19, 2015, the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia revealed that sixty of the 203 detained Filipino workers in the Western Region of Saudi Arabia are facing drug-related cases.

Some of these Filipinos have already been sentenced while others are still facing trial, according to the Philippine consul general.

The figures of drug-related cases cited by the PH Consulate in Saudi Arabia covers only the areas of Jeddah, Yanbu, Madinah, Taif, Mecca, Jizan, Najran, Abha, and Tabuk.

There were drug-related cases, too, involving OFWs in Riyadh and the Central and Eastern regions.

On March 13, 2016, a related report was published (http://filipinotimes.ae/news/2016/03/03/stay-away-from-illegal-drugs-ambassador-tells-pinoy-expats/) by the Abu-Dhabi based English news online, The Filipino Times, quoting Philippine Ambassador to UAE Constancio R. Vingno, Jr.

Illegal drugs is one of the top reasons why OFWs are serving time in UAE jails, according to Ambassador Vingno as quoted in the news report.

He added that there could be over a hundred of OFWs jailed for various drug-related offenses in the Emirates.

The OFWs are either facing charges for smuggling, selling and using illegal drugs.

There was a recent drug-related case in Riyadh, which led to the murder of a 25-year old OFW as the father (also an OFW in Riyadh) of the victim sought my assistance to demand justice for his son. There were at least 7 OFWs involved in this case. The 6 were allegedly committed the murder of their fellow co-worker in an apparent disagreement over a drug-related activity.

The lifeless body of the victim was found August 13, 2015 in Jeddah. According to the father’s victim, it was on August 3 that his son asked his permission as the latter said he will be going to Jeddah with his friends and co-workes.

Three of the 6 suspects were apprehended and locked up in a Riyadh jail, while the other 3 remain at-large who were believed are already in the Philippines.

In this case, 7 OFW lives have been wasted not to mention the effects, emotionally and financially, to their respective families given that these OFWs were usually bread winners.

There is really a need for concerted efforts among the affected -the Filipino community, the Philippine government and all its concerend agencies, and the host govt. -to squarely face the drug menace wrecking havoc on the lives of Filipinos working and living here in the Middle East while we renew our call to all OFWs to shun away from any illegal drugs activities as crime does not pay. By John Leonard Monterona

Monterona is a long-time OFW leader based in Riyad, Saudi Arabia.