Press Release
April 18, 2015


As another Filipino faces execution abroad, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago prodded her colleagues to act on pending bills and resolutions aimed at protecting the rights of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Santiago, a celebrated trial court judge and a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service, has authored several measures in the 16th Congress concerning migrant workers.

"The case of Mary Jane Veloso, who is now on death row in Indonesia amid allegations of drug trafficking, adds sense of urgency for the Senate to intensify legislation protecting our OFWs," the senator said.

Santiago added that she had written the committee on labor earlier this year to ask that it prioritize her measures, including at least five resolutions seeking inquiries, in aid of legislation, on cases involving OFWs.

In November 2014, Santiago filed Senate Resolution No. 1007, urging the Senate to probe the reported proliferation of illegal recruitment incidents online. She also pushed for a similar probe in April 2014 through S.R. No. 608.

Other Santiago-authored resolutions aimed at protection OFWs include:

(1) S.R. No. 992 filed on 14 October 2014, directing the Senate to investigate reports of the double visa scheme by recruitment agencies;

(2) S.R. No. 345 filed on 7 November 2013, calling for hearings on the need to strengthen state protection for OFWs and anti-human trafficking efforts in the country; and

(3) S.R. No. 48, filed on 15 July 2013, urging investigations on the alleged deployment of overseas Filipino workers to war-torn countries despite bans imposed by the government.

"It appears that Veloso is a victim not only of illegal recruitment, but also of drug syndicates using unsuspecting OFWs as drug couriers. Such cases may be avoided if we put in place stronger safeguards," Santiago said.

The senator's statement comes amid public outrage over the death sentence for Veloso in Indonesia. Veloso was arrested, tried, and convicted in Indonesia in 2010 for allegedly smuggling 2.6 kilograms of heroin into the country.

The migrant worker however claimed that she is a victim of an international drug syndicate. Her counsel meanwhile noted that Veloso was not able to defend herself well, and was deprived of a lawyer and translator during interrogation.

The government has appealed for clemency on behalf of Veloso in 2011, but Indonesian President Joko Widodo in January this year rejected one batch of clemency requests, including Veloso's.

Citing data from an advocacy group for Filipino migrant workers, Santiago said that while Veloso is the only Filipino facing execution in Indonesia, globally, some 123 other Filipinos have been sentenced to death.

"All legal and diplomatic means must be exhausted to ensure that Filipinos abroad are not wrongfully deprived of life or liberty. But the ideal situation is one where remedy is not necessary. We must prevent these cases from happening," the senator said.

News Latest News Feed