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World | National

Gov't urged to probe abduction, torture of Pinoy in Afghanistan
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines - A migrants' advocacy group on Wednesday urged the Philippine government to investigate the reported abduction and torture of a Filipino in Afghanistan. 

"As the nation awaits the fate of a 35-year-old Filipino who is scheduled for execution on China death row, Migrante International fears for the life of another kababayan who was allegedly kidnapped and is under grave threat and torture by an unidentified group in Afghanistan," said Migrante International in a statement. 

According to Migrante, 27-year-old Mark Ramos, a procurement logistics worker at the Copenhagen Construction in Kandahar, was kidnapped last January 7.

Ramos' Dubai-based family and relatives sought the help of Migrante-Middle East after they received a call from his abductors recently asking for US $50,000-ransom. The kidnappers also sent his family a video of Ramos, clad in a red sweatshirt with his face concealed by a mask. 

His sister, April Kay, suspects that Ramos' kidnappers burned his face with acid and cut his finger after he tried escaping.  

Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez said asked the Department of Foreign Affairs to urgently conduct a probe on the alleged kidnapping. 

"Buhay ng kababayan natin ang nakataya [The life of our fellow Filipino is at stake]. It's been almost a year, we cringe at the possible torture and conditions Ramos is in. We are not even sure if he is still alive," said Martinez. 

Vice President Jejomar Binay, presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers' concerns, expressed hope that the DFA would resolve Ramos' case. 

Binay said that after being informed of the case, he immediately directed the DFA to give him an update and to provide assistance to Ramos' family.

Philippine authorities have already coordinated with thr Interpol to shed light on Ramos' case, Binay said.

"I am hopeful that the DFA can resolve this issue and locate the exact whereabouts and the condition of Mr. Ramos for the peace of mind of his family," he said.

Meanwhile, the December 8 execution of a 35-year-old Filipino convicted of drug trafficking in China is final and executory.  

Members of the convict’s immediate family are now in China and will be allowed to meet him one last time around 8:30 a.m. The meeting is expected to last from 40 minutes to an hour.

There are at least 7,209 Filipinos in jails allover the world facing various charges, according to Aurora Representative Juan Edgardo Angara and he wants increased government support for them.

At the same time, Akbayan partylist Representative Walden Bello calledfor an investigation on government’s efforts to curb the proliferationof illegal drug syndicates that force OFWsto be their drug couriers.

Angara’s figures on the jailed OFWs was culled from a 495-pagedocument from the DFA furnished tolawmaker's office.

The 7,209 jailed OFWs in 66 countries were documented as of December2010.  The figure showed a spike from the 2,856 “Filipinos indistress” reported in 2003. More than a third, or 2,555 of the 7,209,were already convicted and serving sentence at the time the report was made, Angara said.

“If Filipinos are scattered all over the world, so are those who arein jail. The inconvenient truth is that many of those who have joinedthe great Filipino Diaspora have ended up in a drab, dark and dirtyforeign prison,” Angara said.

Overall, more Filipino men ran afoul with the law than theirfemale counterparts, the DFA report showed that more Filipinas (760) were being convicted than Filipino men (590), he said.

But the lawmaker added that the ranks of the convicted could swell asthere was a total of 1,060 Filipinos waiting for their day in court,categorized by diplomats as either “awaiting trial” or “on trial” or“under investigation.”

Angara added that some of them, however, even if convicted, will neverserve a single day of their sentence as foreign governments wouldrather deport them than pay for their board and lodging, a fate thatawaits even those who have been acquitted.

From July to December 2011, 4,041 Filipinos were facing deportation,the eventual penalty for those who break immigration law. If all willbe repatriated at the same time, it will need 23 Cebu Pacific Airbus320s to fly them home, Angara said.

Quoting the DFA report, Angara said that violation of immigration lawswas the number one reason Filipinos end up behind bars in othercountries, accounting for 628 of the reported cases in the secondsemester of 2010.

Next were drug-related cases from manufacturing to smuggling toretailing to possession.  At the end of last year, 478 Filipinos werein prison for these charges, of which one in every three can be foundin a Chinese jail, he said.

Third on the list of violations was “immorality,” a catch-all felonyenforced by the religious police in Saudi Arabia and a few otherIslamic states. One post in that country, Riyadh, reported 222 cases,or two-thirds of the 316 cases worldwide.

Others in the top 10 offenses were theft and robbery (161 cases);estafa, embezzlement, fraud (114); libel, slander, defamation ( 114);murder, homicide (96); forgery, “false statement” (61);  graft andcorruption (58); and sex-related crimes (34).

Despite the report, Angara said it would be hard to detail the chargesfaced by OFWs due to difficulties in gathering information, sayingthat one diplomatic post can sometimes service six countries.

“Although it’s sometimes scant and sketchy as to specifics, the DFAreport still reads like a global penal catalog based on the crimesthat OFWs have been charged,” he said.

As to the countries of detention, half of the jailed Filipinos were inMalaysia, with 3,680 Filipinos.

Next to Malaysia was Saudi Arabia with  590 OFWs “in detention, housearrest or with pending cases in court,”  followed by  UAE (461),Indonesia (333), Kuwait ( 297), USA (283),  Israel ( 236), China(210), Japan (123), Hong Kong (111),  Singapore (83), Bahrain (62),Qatar (62), Italy (61), Thailand (57), Lebanon (54), Brazil (47),Macau (39), Peru (38) and Jordan (37) rounding up the top 20.

There are 9,435,746 Filipinos abroad, according to the DFA. Of this number, 686,320 are undocumented.