9 November 2009 – A Filipino jailed in Dammam, Saudi Arabia in 2008 for alleged drug-related crime is currently awaiting the final decision of the Grand Court of Dammam on his case.
This was reported by the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) after inquiring with and receiving a note verbale from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the case of Jason Mallorca Pineda.
Mr. Pineda was detained at the Dammam Jail in March 2008 for allegedly receiving 21.2 grams of methamphetamine and selling it his fellow Filipinos in Saudi Arabia. According to Saudi authorities, he allegedly confessed to the commission of the crime.
“His case was endorsed by the General Prosecutor to the Grand Court of Dammam. The case has been followed up by the Jail. The presiding Judge informed that the case is still under the Court’s study and review,” the note verbale read.
The Philippine Embassy said Mr. Pineda remains in detention since under local laws, bail is not granted for drug-related cases.
Meanwhile, the DFA’s Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs said final arrangements are being made for the eventual repatriation of Jose Jonathan Botor Bigas who was also imprisoned for a drug-related offense in Saudi Arabia.
Funds are being made available for the repatriation of Mr. Bigas who was originally sentenced to one year imprisonment and 250 lashes in August 2007. Mr. Bigas finished serving his term in August 2008 but due to administrative procedures between the Saudi court and the Governor’s Office, he remained in jail for a time.
There are 62 Filipinos incarcerated in nine countries in the Middle East on drug-related cases. Of these, 43 are in Riyadh and majority are women.
There are approximately 3,000 Filipinos (flow estimate) in detention centers or facing criminal prosecution overseas. Of these, about 70 percent involve immigration-related offenses and these overseas Filipinos, including OFWs, are expected to be deported after serving their brief sentences. The rest are in custody for commission of common crimes, including theft and drug trafficking.
Embassy and Consulate officials and personnel conduct monthly jail visits to look after the welfare of Filipinos in jail. Approval of jail visitation in some countries, however, depends on the host government.
The DFA and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) submit a semi-annual report to Congress containing the inventory of Filipinos in jail in other countries, among others.
Philippine foreign service posts also maintain, in cooperation with DOLE-Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, a Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC) in countries where there are large concentration of Filipinos.
In Saudi Arabia, DOLE also maintains four Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) located in Riyadh, Jeddah, Al Khobar, and Buraida. END