Overseas Filipino worker Jennifer Dalquez, who was acquitted of the murder of her employer in the United Arab Emirates, has finally come home to the Philippines after four years in prison.
Dalquez arrived in Manila on Friday morning along with undocumented Filipinos who availed themselves of the UAE’s three-month amnesty program.
“I am thankful to the (Philippine) embassy for helping me with my case until my acquittal, and also to the government for all that they have provided,” said Dalquez at a press conference after her arrival.
The 29-year-old General Santos native who worked as a domestic helper in the Middle Eastern country was found guilty of murder and sentenced to die by a UAE court in 2014 after she was found to have stabbed her employer to death.
She explained in her appeal that her employer had threatened to kill her at knifepoint after she refused his sexual advances. Legal assistance from the Department of Foreign Affairs helped her appeal her case, leading to a reversal of the decision by another court in July 2017.
Dalquez, however, had to serve the remainder of a prison sentence despite the acquittal.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola said that Dalquez’ release and return home was proof of the government’s concern for the welfare of OFWs.
“Jennifer’s acquittal underscores just how serious the Duterte administration is in promoting the rights and protecting the welfare of our people abroad,” she said.
Dalquez also reportedly received assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Labor and Employment and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration in her journey home.
Migrante Party-list, one of the organizations that spearheaded the campaign for Dalquez’ release, in a statement said that her acquittal and safe return home was just one victory in the fight to advance the rights and welfare of OFWs around the world.
“As we laud our triumph, let us never lose sight of our fellow Filipinos who are still on death row and those thousands of other OFWs languishing in prison. The battle is not yet over,” the group said in a statement on Facebook.
News of her release has also been celebrated by those who followed her road to freedom.
OFWs in trouble
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto in September 2017 said that as of 2016, there were 3,827 Filipinos in prison overseas.
“This is just, however, the tip of the iceberg of Filipinos in distress in foreign lands. They are the ones who erred. Those who were victims are not yet included. More Filipinos are the victim of abuse and human rights violations,” he said while calling for better funding for OFW rights cases.
A study compiled by the DFA meanwhile revealed that there at least 130 Filipinos abroad on death row, with another 137 serving life sentences, as of December 2016.
The number of OFW abuses and killings in the Middle East in recent years has given rise to a growing movement calling for better working conditions for overseas and migrant Filipino workers around the world.
In 2010, OFW Mary Jane Veloso was sentenced to death by Indonesian courts after she was found guilty of drug trafficking.
She defended herself by saying that the 2.6 kilograms of narcotics that were discovered in her bag were actually placed by her alleged recruiters Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao without her knowledge.
In April 2015, her execution was postponed after mounting pressure from both the Philippines and OFW rights groups. She has since used the lease on life to seek legal action in fighting for her release.
The Court of Appeals in January 2018 barred a local judge from observing the deposition of Veloso’s testimony against Sergio and Lacanilao. Her parents in September that year filed their appeal at the Supreme Court.