MANILA—A lawmaker at the House of Representatives has proposed the posting of permanent legal attaches in Philippine embassies in countries where overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are facing legal problems.
Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to seriously study and consider the posting of legal attaches initially in countries where a considerable number of OFWs are either undergoing trial for crimes or have been convicted.
Castelo made the call in the wake of reports of the hanging of Jakatia Pawa in Kuwait, coming on the heels of another overseas Filipino worker in death row in the United Arab Emirates whose fate is about to be decided by an appellate court.
Jennifer Dalquez, a Filipino domestic worker, had been convicted in 2015 for killing her employer who allegedly tried to rape her.
“Considering the magnitude of the problem, it’s about time the DFA assign a permanent legal attaché in problem areas instead of getting lawyers only when an OFW is already in jail,” he pointed out.
Castelo said the legal attachés should be knowledgeable in the laws and legal processes in the countries where they will be posted and as early as possible develop partnerships with legal practitioners in such countries.
The Quezon City lawmaker said this provides strong and effective legal representation for OFWs facing charges.
Part of the legal attache’s job is to orient OFWs on the laws of the country they are in, provide counseling to those who have problems with their employers and seek legal representation where necessary, he noted.
“This way, we can help prevent OFWs from being forced to take the law unto their hands. Dapat bago maisipan ng OFW na gumawa ng mali o krimen, meron ng ginagawa ang DFA at OWWA, hindi yung kung kailan nakakulong na,” he added.
Dalquez has been in UAE prison since December 2014. She was convicted of killing her employer in May 2015 and has been in death row since, awaiting decision on her appeal.
An appellate court is due to decide late this week on her appeal and her family in the Philippines has sought President Duterte’s help to save her life.