3,827 Pinoys in foreign jails – Recto

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — There are least 3,827 Filipinos, including 140 on death row, languishing in jails across 52 countries and territories as of the end of 2016, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said yesterday.

Citing a 1,084-page Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) report to the Senate, Recto said the figure could go up to 4,452 if 625 Filipinos reported to be under investigation will be considered as being behind bars. 

Of the 3,827 incarcerated Filipinos, 130 were on death row in 11 countries, with Malaysia topping the list at 48, followed by Saudi Arabia with 43.

Recto noted there was a “marked decrease” in the number of Filipinos sentenced to death in China.

“With only six reported Filipinos in death row, could this be a result of the thaw in Philippine-China relations?” Recto said. 

Serving life sentences abroad were 137 Filipinos, 33 of them women. 

As to reason for incarceration, illegal drugs topped the list, responsible for putting 2,265 Filipinos in foreign jails, with 1,131 in Malaysia, 459 in Saudi Arabia, 146 in China, 106 in United Arab Emirates and 63 in Italy.  

Of those facing drug charges, 473 were Filipino women, including 50 jailed or facing prosecution in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

Second on the list are immigration offenses, with 903 Filipinos jailed abroad, followed by robbery or theft for 658 overseas Filipinos. 

Other offenses allegedly committed were murder, homicide, and attempted manslaughter with 270 in jail, embezzlement and fraud (307), physical injury and assault (171), rape and sexual assault (148). 

Recto said 351 Filipinos are in jail for “homosexuality, immorality and what our diplomats classified as ‘love cases.’”

“There were other unique cases like witchcraft, sorcery and black magic, with 30 OFWs charged of or convicted for these. For consuming alcohol, 167 Filipinos landed in jail, mostly in the Middle East,” Recto said.

By country, Malaysia hosts the most number of Filipinos serving “fixed-term jail sentences” with 1,927, followed by Saudi Arabia (391), UAE (169), China (147), and Hong Kong (89), rounding up the top five. 

Because of the rising number of Filipinos, many of them overseas workers, in jail, Recto called for the augmentation of the “Assistance-to-Nationals Fund” of the DFA. 

Under the proposed 2018 national budget, the fund will jump two-and-half times to P1 billion in 2018, while a legal fund, also managed by the DFA, will double to P200 million.

“But this is not enough if you look at the number of those who need help,” he said.

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