Pacquiao wants data on govt aid to OFWs involved in cases abroad
Filipino boxing icon and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao has asked the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for an inventory of all pending cases involving overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) abroad to assess how well the government has been providing legal assistance to them.
In a letter sent to House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs chair AGAP party-list Rep. Nicanor Briones this week, Pacquiao, who visited death row convict Mary Jane Veloso in Indonesia, asked the DFA to provide an inventory of pending cases as of June 30, 2015, including those who are detained, are under trial and are serving their prison sentences.
The boxing icon, a vice chairman of the House committee, said he was prompted to inquire about the status of the beleaguered OFWs because he was moved by Veloso’s plight.
The 30-year-old Filipina had recounted her ordeal to Pacquiao when he and his wife, Sarangani Vice Governor Jinkee Pacquiao, visited her at the Wirogunan Penitentiary last July 10.
Pacquiao discovered during their meeting that Veloso had only been represented by a court-appointed pro bono counsel from the time following her apprehension at the Yogyakarta International airport on April 25, 2009, until she was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death on October 11, 2010.
It was only when Veloso appealed her conviction that the Philippine Embassy in Jakarta hired a private lawyer to defend her.
Veloso was given a last-minute reprieve by Indonesian President Joko Widodo on the day of her execution on April 29 after evidence surfaced that she might have been a victim of human trafficking and her recruiter surrendered to Philippine authorities.
Though it was Veloso’s case that hogged the headlines this year, Pacquiao noted that her story “is not isolated and has evolved to be a very disturbing pattern.”
“If we can save other apprehended OFWs from suffering the same fate as Ms. Mary Jane Veloso, we would have truly fulfilled the mandate of our Committee, as well as, our bounden duty as representatives of our people,” he said.
Aside from requesting for data from the DFA, Pacquiao also pushed for the creation and adoption of a protocol for providing speedy and adequate legal assistance to OFWs facing criminal charges abroad.
He also asked Briones to hold a dialogue with officials from the DFA, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and the Department of Labor and Employment regarding the status of government aid to OFWs facing criminal charges. — Xianne Arcangel/JDS, GMA News