Protect Saudi ‘violators,’ PH embassy told

Paterno Esmaquel II
The group Migrante blames the Philippine embassy after the Saudi police allegedly committed abuses against stranded OFWs

CAMP SITE. Overseas Filipino workers set up camp outside the Philippine consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. File photo by Migrante-Jeddah

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine embassy should protect Filipino protesters in Saudi Arabia even if they allegedly violated Saudi Arabia’s laws, a migrant workers’ group said Thursday, July 11.

The Saudi police arrested at least 3 of these protesters last June 30, after a supposedly violent dispersal that the group Migrante has complained about.

Saudi bans “all sorts of demonstrations, marches, and sit-ins, as they contradict Islamic Sharia law and the values and traditions of Saudi society,” said Saudi’s Interior Ministry in a March 2011 statement, as quoted by BBC.

Migrante chairman Garry Martinez, however, blamed the Philippine embassy after the Saudi police allegedly committed abuses against the OFWs.

Martinez asserted that the protesters didn’t violate the law. “Unang una, nakikita naman natin na ang pagkilos ng ating mga mamamayan ay sa usapin ng serbisyo ng gobyerno. Hindi nila kinokondena ang Saudi government,” Martinez told Rappler in an interview.

(First of all, we see that our citizens’ protests concerned Philippine government services. They did not condemn the Saudi government.)

He also noted that because the OFWs staged their protest within the Philippine embassy, they fell under the jurisdiction of Philippine law.

‘Recall embassy officials’

Backing Migrante, Gabriela Reps Luzviminda Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus condemned the dispersal.

In a resolution on Wednesday, July 10, Ilagan and De Jesus also urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Labor and Employment to recall Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Ezzedin Tago, labor attaché Adam Musa, and welfare officer Abdullah Umpa.

The legislators accused the 3 officials of “ordering the Saudi police to conduct the dispersal.”

DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez denied this claim.

“Per the report of the embassy that we have received last week, it was the police who noticed the number of OFWs who were massing in the diplomatic quarters in Riyadh, and under the Saudi Arabian law, sit-ins and other mass actions, whether peaceful or not, are a violation of the law of Saudi Arabia,” Hernandez said.

Nevertheless, Migrante said the government should speed up the repatriation of stranded OFWs in Saudi.

The government has repatriated only 10% of stranded Filipino workers as of Wednesday. – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.