MANILA, Philippines - From the mountains in the Andes chain to the harsh deserts of Sudan, Filipinos are everywhere, some even languishing in jail.
Senate President Manny Villar revealed on Wednesday that there are 4,770 jailed Filipinos in 63 countries as of June 2007.
The Senate leader said the figure was included in a 465-page report to Congress submitted by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Of the said figure, Villar said 954 were women.
"But the number of women detainees could be higher as some embassies and consulates did not indicate the gender of Filipino nationals in prisons in their area of jurisdiction," Villar said.
The report furnished by the Department of Foreign Affairs estimated that of the 7,945,751 overseas Filipinos as of June 2007, some 444,000 were undocumented.
Villar renewed his call to increase in the assistance funds to overseas Filipinos in distress.
He already filed a bill appropriating P1 billion Assistance to Nationals (ATN) fund that will be used for legal assistance, repatriation, livelihood programs and health assistance to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
"From high up in Andes, where seven Filipinas were in jail in Peru for drug-running, to balmy Micronesia, which had six Pinoys behind bars; to as north as Denmark and to the tip of South Africa, which had one Filipino each in their penal systems; from cosmopolitan Milan to the deserts of Sudan, in whatever altitude, time zone or climate, there is a Filipino in a jail there," the senator said.
The Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur reported that the most number of Filipino detainees is found in Malaysia with 1,600.
In Tokyo, the plight of 604 OFWs in jail or facing cases in various courts were monitored but did not state how many of them were women. Kuwait merely reported 128 detainees without giving a breakdown of their gender.
"In fact, the number of Filipinos in foreign jails could be bigger than the 4,770 reported in the latest semi-annual census, as some posts were vague in their reports, like the one from Riyadh which merely stated that it conducted 120 jail visitations in the first six months of last year," Villar said.
Next to Malaysia, Japan has 734 jailed Filipinos (130 of whom are in the Osaka area); Qatar, 554; US, 406; Abu Dhabi, 198; Saudi Arabia (Jeddah only) 161; and Hong Kong, 127.
By area, the North and South America had 416 detainees; Asia Pacific, 2,782; Europe, 126; and Middle East and Africa, 1446.
Villar said while most were in jail for violating immigration laws, the rest were charged with or sentenced "to most of the crimes catalogued in the penal code."
"In India, a ship captain was caught smuggling oil; in Thailand, for faking credit cards; in China, a Filipina was caught while working as a drug mule. There is one country in which almost all of the Filipinas were in jail for alleged adultery. And believe it or not, one Pinay was charged for sending out a malicious text message," he said.
The senator added that the undocumented OFWs are candidates for legal problems and "their tribe will grow as more Filipino flee poverty at home and the possibility of jail will not deter them."
Villar said a great deal of the cases stemmed from cultural reasons.
"There is also reason to believe that many cases involving women OFWs were in the nature of harassment suits or reprisal for cases of employer abuse that these women filed, as a legal tactic to pressure them into dropping the cases," Villar said. - Fidel Jimenez, GMANews.TV