Not all drug mules are OFWs – Ople
MANILA, Philippines – There are at least 80 Filipinos on death row abroad, and around 3,000 imprisoned for other offenses.
The recent case of overseas Filipina worker Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipino worker sentenced to death in Indonesia for drug trafficking, gained the attention of the country and Filipinos around the world. (READ: The story of Mary Jane Veloso in her own words)
But when is someone just a drug mule or an OFW? In a recent Hangout with Rappler, migrant rights advocate Susan "Toots" Ople of the Blas Ople Policy and Training Institute discussed this.
"Well, again we have to go back to the elements," Ople told Rappler. She continued, "Was there deception involved? Yes, because she was promised a job that was not real. It was bogus, so there was deception. How was she deployed? She was deployed as a tourist. She did not pass through that POEA [Philippine Overseas Employment Agency], so her recruiter was really violating already our law."
Ople said that Mary Jane was being exploited and "her vulnerability and her circumstance were being exploited for drug trafficking." But was it her fault? "It does not really matter, because under the law, even if she consented to do it, if she’s a victim of human trafficking, then the onus is really on the recruiter," Ople said.
But it is important to note that not everyone in jail abroad is necessarily a trafficking victim or OFW, she clarified.
There are at least 94 Filipinos imprisoned in China, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia and, according to Ople, "a huge number because of drugs."
Ople clarified, "There’s this perception that all of these people, all of these Filipinos are OFWs, but this is not always the case."
Some could really be just travelers, while others are OFWs "who were asked to bring stuff."
She added: "Admittedly, there are OFWs in Saudi Arabia, for example, who are involved in drugs, either as users or as peddlers, but to say that all of them are OFWs – that’s why we caution media to be very careful because that person, as reported in the news, may or may not be an OFW." – Rappler.com