Deploy more legal attachés to assist OFWs in distress–Gatchalian

By Sammy F.Martin

MANILA, Oct. 3 (PNA) — A party-list lawmaker is seeking the immediate posting of legal attachés abroad to assist the increasing number of distressed Filipinos overseas pursuant to Republic Act 8042.

House HR 2270, penned by Alay Buhay Party-list Rep. Wes Gatchalian, is “urging the Office of the President for the immediate deployment/posting of legal attachés in selected diplomatic posts to assist legally distressed overseas Filipinos.”

“The 2014 Annual Report of the Department of Foreign Affairs reveals that 553 remains of overseas Filipinos were repatriated to the Philippines while a total of 3,154 were in prison,” Gatchalian lamented.

He said that data from the DFA revealed there were about 88 Filipinos on death row abroad, about half of whom were convicted of drug-related offenses.

“Because of the alarming numbers, the government should intensify its legal assistance to all Filipinos abroad,” Gatchalian said.

The author added that Filipinos who are on trial abroad, regardless of guilt or innocence, deserve and should have access to the government’s assistance through its legal attachés.

“There is therefore a need to institutionalize the deployment of Legal Attachés in selected diplomatic posts so that Filipinos are well protected,” he said.

Legal Attaches, he explained, “aside from competent legal experts hired by the DFA from the host countries, shall aid Filipinos abroad by rendering legal counseling and assistance to the diplomatic posts and Filipinos as well.”

Section 1, Paragraph (e) of R.A. 8042, as amended by R.A. 10022 provides “(e) Free access to the courts and quasi-judicial bodies and adequate legal assistance shall not be denied to any person by reason of poverty. In this regard, it is imperative that an effective mechanism be instituted to ensure that the rights and interest of distressed overseas Filipinos, in general, and Filipino migrant workers, in particular, whether regular/documented or irregular/undocumented, are adequately protected and safeguarded.”

It is also provided in Section 17, Subparagraph (c) of R.A. 8042, as amended, “(c) To tap the assistance of reputable law firms, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, other bar associations and other government legal experts on overseas Filipino workers laws to complement the government’s efforts to provide assistance to our migrant workers.”

HR 2270 is still with the Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs for consideration and action. (PNA)