Quote for the Week..

"Why are the country’s political leaders quick to act on amending the Constitution to change nationalistic provisions for the benefit of foreigners or to extend their terms of office but are allergic to amending the Constitution to address the people’s aspirations for self-determination?" - Marvic Leonen,Dean of the UP College of Law, in a keynote address delivered at the 1st International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao; March 16-18, 2009 in Davao City, Philippines.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Two of 10 OFWs in Saudi are jailed for 'crimes of immorality'

The Filipina nurse caught kissing in public in Saudi Arabia last week is not alone.

An estimated two of 10 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia who seek Philippine government assistance are jailed for similar "crimes of immorality," INQUIRER.net learned Monday.

In a related development, Foreign Affairs spokesman Claro Cristobal said the Filipina nurse had been released by the Riyadh morality police Wednesday. He could not detail the circumstances of her release because the report from the Philippine embassy in the Middle Eastern kingdom was verbal, not written.

Cristobal admitted there are several such cases involving Filipinos in Saudi Arabia, but he could give no figures.

But a ranking labor official familiar with welfare cases involving OFWs in Saudi told INQUIRER.net such offenses involving Filipinos are "common…about 20 percent" of the cases his office handles.

As of June 2007, more than one million Filipinos are estimated to work and live in Saudi.
Labor Secretary Marianito Roque, for his part, said "there are a lot of crimes of immorality" involving Filipinos, most of them simply for "holding hands and eating out together."
Saudi laws prohibit a woman from going out in public with men other than her relatives.
In a phone interview, the labor chief confirmed that this prohibition has spawned an industry of fake marriage licenses, which are sold for $80-300. These documents are showed to the Saudi morality police when the OFWs are caught.

"They're sold in the commercial district in Jeddah, similar to the fake licenses sold in Recto [Avenue in Manila]. They look so real, complete with dry seal. Most of the agents are Filipino transport drivers," he said.

Roque said laws against these offenses are drilled into leaving OFWs during their pre-departure orientation seminars, but acknowledged that the isolation and "sheer loneliness" of being in a strange land may be reasons why many succumb to these affairs.

"They are in a hot, hostile environment. They do not understand the language. So when they meet a fellow Filipino or someone who speaks their language, that's the magnet," he said.
"But usually, it's just for having someone to talk to," he added.

Roque said the penalty for this crime is jail time of two to six months and deportation. He said the Philippine government usually intervenes in these cases and the Saudi government usually acquiesces.

"We usually tell them that it's a case of cultural differences and our people sometimes have to be reminded that these are the laws in Saudi. Oftentimes, they turn the arrested to us within five to seven days, unless they are caught in the act," he said. (By Veronica Uy, INQ.net)

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