OFW in Abu Dhabi to appeal death sentence

MANILA, Philippines – Overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Jennifer Aresgado Dalquez is set to appeal her death sentence before an Abu Dhabi appellate court, the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment said.

Her lawyer, Nasser Al Shamsi, was secured with the help of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

"The DFA has approved a legal assistance fund for Dalquez's defense and it will meet with Atty Al Shamsi again to plan what steps will be taken next," said Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz on Tuesday, June 9.

Badloz instructed the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to identify the priority needs of Dalquez' family, "so these can be specifically addressed within definitive timelines."

A household service worker deployed to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Dalquez invoked self-defense in the murder of her employer, who she stabbed because he tried to rape her.

Dalquez worked on a live-out arrangement with the Emirati since November 2013. Last May 20, the Al Ain Court of First Instance sentenced her to death.

"We pray that Dalquez will be saved from the death penalty, and we pin our hopes, too, on the steadfast assistance of the Department of Foreign Affairs which continuously provides her legal assistance since January 2015," Baldoz said.

Labor Attaché Ophelia N. Almenario of Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Abu Dhabi will likewise assist Dalquez in her case if warranted, she added. Almenario is "ready to dispatch necessary assistance," she said.

Filipinos abroad

Some 92 Filipinos have been meted the death penalty in foreign courts as of March 2015, majority of whom are in Malaysia. Dalquez adds to the 49 already convicted of murder.

"DFA always provides legal assistance to Filipinos abroad, not to save them but to ensure their rights are protected in accordance to laws of the host country," lawyer Francisco Noel Fernandez III, special assistant at the DFA Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs, had explained to a House panel.

An increase in the DFA legal assistance fund for distressed OFWs was proposed in the 2015 budget, from P30 million to P100 million. 

Senator Nancy Binay earlier slammed President Benigno Aquino III for subjecting to "conditional implementation" the said increase despite being approved during deliberations in Congress. 

Echoing Binay's sentiment, Senator Cynthia Villar also said Filipinos who are on trial abroad – regardless of guilt or innocence – deserve the backing of their state. 

They believe a Filipino's right to a fair trial knows no geographical boundaries.

According to the 2013 Commission of Filipino Overseas (CFO) Compendium of Statistics, there are 931,562 Filipinos in the UAE, where Dalquez is.

The Philippines is a known labor-sending country. Over 10.5 million Filipinos are either temporarily working or permanently residing abroad, according to the 2013 CFO compendium. More recent estimates peg the number at 15 million.

While OFWs' remittances boost the economy, President Benigno Aquino III envisions "a government that creates jobs at home so that working abroad will be a choice rather than a necessity." – Rappler.com