Go helps freed OFW charged with murder, pushes for Department of OFW

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DAVAO CITY — Senator Christopher Lawrence ‘Bong’Go has extended assistant to Rose Policarpio, the overseas Filipino worker who had just returned to the country after being acquitted of murder in Saudi Arabia. 

The Manila-based radio station DZRH facilitated the conversation between Go and Policarpio where the later thanked Go for extending assistance and support to help her restart her life. She also expressed gratitude to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development for helping secure her release and assisting her when she came back to the country.

Go thanked the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh through  Ambassador Alonto for extending assistance to Policarpio until she arrived in the country.

The Senator insisted that he was merely doing his job as a public servant. He encouraged Policarpio to come to him if she needs more assistance, such as securing employment, and called on all concerned agencies to extend to her other forms of support the government could provide. 

Policarpio, then 31, had flown to Saudi Arabia in 2013 to work as a food server but then turned to work as a domestic helper.  Three men broke into her employer’s house and killed the Lebanese woman. Policarpio claimed she fled the scene of the crime because the perpetrators attempted to rape her. Based on the official police report, Policarpio had gone to the police and reported the incident. However, she was arrested and jailed instead.

Policarpio was incarcerated for six years and was finally released on January 2019, after she was found innocent of any crime. According to Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Adnan Alonto, Policarpio would have faced the death penalty had she been convicted. She finally flew back from Riyadh on September 21, 2020, and arrived in the Philippines on September 22. 

Throughout the ordeal, the DFA’s Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs, through the help of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, worked closely and made strong representations on her behalf. Their timely legal assistance ensured her rights were protected under Saudi laws. 

During the interview, Go expressed concern that there remained many cases similar to Policarpio. His office alone is presently monitoring death penalty cases and other calls for help from Filipinos abroad. 

He recalled a similar case he had personally helped which involved an OFW who had been convicted of murder in Bahrain. Roderick Aguinaldo was imprisoned for four years before he received a royal pardon from the Bahraini government. Aguinaldo returned home to the Philippines last June 7. 

Go lamented that while there are specific government programs that provide assistance (e.g. legal counsel and psychosocial counseling) to distressed OFWs, they are scattered across various national agencies. 

For this reason, the Senator is pushing for the creation of a department that shall bring together these agencies and be entirely dedicated to handling the affairs of overseas Filipinos. In 2019, he filed Senate Bill No. 202 which sought to create this department. A second iteration, SBN 1835, was recently filed which takes into consideration inputs from concerned executive agencies. 

The proposed Department of Overseas Filipinos shall assume the functions of DFA-OUMWA, the Commission on Overseas Filipinos, all Philippine Overseas Labor Offices under the Department of Labor and Employment, the International Labor Affairs Bureau under DOLE, and International Social Services Office of the DSWD.  

It will also exercise administrative supervision over the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and OWWA which shall be attached to the department. –Ezc/Newsline.ph

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