19 Filipino sailors held in Mexico for alleged drug law violation

Robie de Guzman   •   July 30, 2019   •   925

Nineteen Filipinos and three Polish nationals who work as sailors of a Cypriot-flagged vessel have been detained in Mexico for allegedly violating the country’s law on illegal drugs.

In a report received by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Philippine Embassy in Mexico said the vessel, UBC Savannah docked in Altamira Port was held on July 27.

The DFA said Embassy representatives were able to speak with seven of the Filipino seafarers currently detained for questioning.

“The group is generally in good spirits, and informed the Embassy representatives that their families have been informed of what happened,” the department said.

Embassy officials are also in close coordination with Mexican authorities and the law firm representing the ship’s crewmembers.

“At this point, no formal charges have been filed against any seafarer,” the DFA said.

The department assured it is ready to provide aid, including legal assistance if necessary, to protect the Filipino seafarers’ right to be heard in court.

“However, should they be found to be guilty by the proper court of the charges against them, they have to face the legal consequences of their actions,” it said.

“The public is likewise reminded that the Philippine government, under the leadership of the President Rodrigo R. Duterte, expects all Filipinos to follow the laws of their countries of destination,” it added.

DFA reiterates warning vs online job offers in Iraq

Robie de Guzman   •   September 10, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Tuesday reminded the public that the deployment ban to Iraq has not been lifted, reiterating its warning to Filipinos against online announcements for job offers in the Middle Eastern country.

The DFA issued the statement after some online announcements claim that the existing ban on deployment to Iraq has been lifted.

Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) Governing Board Resolution No. 6, s. 2018, which suspends the deployment of newly hired workers bound for Iraq and the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, remains in effect,” the DFA said in a statement.

“Furthermore, household workers who are already based in Iraq are also banned from returning to Iraq should they go on vacation to the Philippines,” it added.

The DFA further warned all Filipino travelers that Iraq imposes hefty penalties for persons without the proper visas or with expired visas.

“Filipinos who are temporarily vacationing in Iraq or are residing and working before the deployment ban are advised to take note of their visa validity dates,” it said.

The DFA also reminded Filipinos to take note of the following early warning signs of human trafficking if they receive job offers overseas:

  • applicants do not possess their own identification documents such as IDs or passports;
  • passports are confiscated;
  • applicants are advised to inform authorities that they are just visiting a particular city, like Dubai, Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok;
  • applicants are advised of particular immigration lanes to choose or given nonverbal cues to lookout for during departure from Clark Airport or the Ninoy Aquino International Airport;
  • agency has no permanent address; and
  • agents do not reveal their full names and contact details.

The department also advised the public to comply with pre-departure formalities being implemented by Philippine immigration authorities.

“These formalities are intended to ensure the safety of Filipino travelers and prevent the occurrence of illegal recruitment, people smuggling, and human trafficking cases,” the DFA said.

Joana Demafelis’ employer found guilty of murder

Robie de Guzman   •   September 9, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The female employer of Filipino household worker Joana Demafelis has been found guilty of murder by the Syrian District Criminal Court, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Monday.

The DFA Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs reported that Mouna Ali Hassoun was handed the guilty verdict for the killing of Demafelis, whose remains were found in a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait in February 2018.  

Hassoun was in Syria where she had been in custody since last year.

Her Lebanese husband, Nader Essam Assaf, is also facing a murder charge in Lebanon.

Demafelis was reported missing in 2016. Kuwaiti authorities discovered her remains inside a freezer where she was believed to have been kept for more than a year.

Based on the autopsy report, Demafelis suffered internal bleeding and sustained several broken bones.

The discovery of her remains prompted the previous deployment ban of new Filipino workers to Kuwait.

“DFA will continue to provide legal assistance to the family until justice is served,” the department said.

DFA: Tugboat manned by Filipino crew seized in Persian Gulf

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 9, 2019

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reported that a tugboat manned by 12 Filipino crew was seized in the Persian Gulf due to alleged oil smuggling.

Ambassador to Iran Wilfredo C. Santos said the tugboat was seized on September 7 and that an investigation is on-going.

“He [Santos] said that Coast Guard authorities relayed that an investigation is on going on the alleged oil smuggling of the crew, and once this has been established, the matter will be referred to the local court,” the DFA bulletin reads.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Department is awaiting further updates on the issue including the condition of the 12 seafarers. The department is also prepared to provide assistance when needed.—AAC

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