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‘Runaway’ OFWs returning with Rody from Saudi, Qatar

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star

DOHA – President Duterte will bring home with him more than 150 Filipino migrant workers who availed themselves of the Saudi Arabian government’s amnesty for undocumented workers.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the returning overseas Filipino workers constitute the first batch of the so-called “runaway” OFWs to be repatriated to the Philippines.

“Runaway” migrant workers refer to victims of illegal recruiters, those who were sold by their employers or who escaped from their employers after being maltreated. They are staying in shelters provided by the Philippine embassy while awaiting their repatriation.

“He (Duterte) is expected to arrive in the Philippines with more than 150 OFWs from Saudi Arabia, the first batch of those being repatriated by the Philippine government due to the grant of amnesty to overstaying and undocumented foreign workers by the Saudi government,” Abella told a press conference here yesterday.

Duterte is expected to welcome the repatriated workers upon his arrival today at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the Qatari government has also agreed to release 86 “runaway” OFWs now staying in a shelter of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office.

He said the Philippine labor attaché is processing the exit permits of the workers.

“Hopefully we can secure their release in a month or two,” Bello said.

Bello said Duterte is also expected to seek pardon for three Filipinos who were jailed here after being accused of espionage. He said the two Filipinos with lighter sentences have a “good” chance of obtaining pardon.

“The President will seek pardon for the three. It will depend on the nature of the offense. We think only two will be given pardon,” Bello said.

Duterte was expected to bring up the cases of the three Filipinos in his meeting with Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Al Thani yesterday.

The three convicted Filipinos, identified only as “Chua Tan,” “Ulep” and “Alamarez,” were jailed in 2010 for allegedly taking pictures of Qatari military installations and for stealing sensitive documents.

They were given a death sentence in 2014 but their punishment was commuted after the Philippine embassy appealed for commutation of their sentence. The sentence of Chua Tan, said to be an employee of a state-run firm, was lowered to life imprisonment while those of Ulep and Alamarez were commuted to a 15-year jail term.

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