Saudi authorities will decide on charges to be filed against the 19 Filipinas after the investigation on the case is completed, Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Adnan Alonto said following their release.
Joven Cagande/File
Saudi Arabia frees 19 Filipinos in Halloween party raid
Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - November 2, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Saudi Arabia has released 19 Filipinas detained in a raid on a Halloween party in Riyadh, a senior diplomat said on Wednesday.

Saudi authorities will decide on charges to be filed against the 19 Filipinas after the investigation on the case is completed, Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Adnan Alonto said following their release.

In two to three weeks, Alonto said the embassy would know if the prosecutor’s office will file charges against the women, who had nothing to do with organizing the event. Authorities said the raid was prompted by complaints of loud music and frightening costumes.

He said there is a good chance that all 19, who were recruited to do part-time work as cleaners and servers at the event, will be exonerated.

The ambassador informed the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) that all 19 overseas Filipino workers have returned to their respective accommodations.

The embassy had also spoken with their employers who agreed to take all of them back without penalties.

The DFA thanked Saudi Arabia yesterday after it agreed to Manila’s request to take temporary custody of the 19 Filipinas through the Philippine embassy in Riyadh.

“This gesture is very much appreciated,” Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said after he was informed that the Filipinas have been turned over to Alonto at 1:20 p.m. Riyadh time (6:20 p.m. in Manila) on Wednesday.

The 19 women were initially detained at the Al Nizah Jail in Malaz, Riyadh.

Online videos, which posters said were filmed at the event held at a rented resort over the weekend, show attendees wearing costumes and dancing to loud music.

The footage, which Reuters could not independently verify, also showed police vehicles with flashing lights.

The Saudi General Directorate for Public Security tweeted on Saturday that the party’s organizers were arrested for charging an entrance fee without a license, in addition to “disturbing residents, order violations from some attendees and striking fear in residents by using masks, strange clothes and firecrackers.”

Christopher Patrick Aro, consul general for the Philippines in Saudi Arabia, told Reuters the Filipinas had been hired as cleaners for the party at a resort in Riyadh’s al-Thumama district and were not wearing costumes. They could face charges over violation of labor regulations, he said.

Celebrating Halloween, along with Christmas and other holidays common in many countries, is forbidden in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom, though in practice many foreigners and some Saudis observe such occasions.

Some clerics see Halloween as a form of devil worship and too closely associated with Western culture.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has introduced reforms aimed at loosening Saudi Arabia’s strict social rules, notably by easing restrictions on gender mixing in public places and clipping the wings of the religious police who had enforced draconian norms for years.

Four men, including one Saudi, were also held, Aro said. It was unclear if the men had also been released. – With Reuters

ADNAN ALONTO DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OVERSEAS FILIPINO WORKERS
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