Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 3, Number 23 July 13 - 19, 2003 Quezon City, Philippines
Freed After 5 Years in Prison, 3 OFWs are Sentenced Again to 6 Years
Three OFWs were released last January after spending five years in prison over a crime for which they were eventually acquitted. Now they have to spend another six years – plus 350 lashes - for allegedly lying and for falsifying documents. The other problem is that the new sentences were meted out apparently without due process.
Three overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia who were freed last January after five years of imprisonment were sentenced again by the Emergency Court in the capital city of Riyadh, the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM) said in a statement over the weekend.
Joselito Alejo and Ramiro Espero were sentenced with six years imprisonment and 350 lashes for allegedly lying while Romeo Cordova was given six years of prison term for alleged falsification of documents. The sentences were meted out July 10 without the three being aware of it and without due process.
Ramon Bultron, APMM managing director, said: "After the jubilation of getting off the previous criminal charges, our kababayans (compatriots) are set again to suffer. Was the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh unaware of the other charges lodged against the three? They should be if they were indeed serious in their work."
The three OFWs were implicated in the killing of Fahad Al-Oitabi, a Saudi policeman, for which they were jailed in August 1997. After spending five years in prison, they were acquitted by the Riyadh Grand Court. The court decision was upheld by the Court of Appeals.
Released in January this year, Alejo, Espero and Cordova were placed in the custody of the Philippine Embassy in Royadh while they waited for the Court's final clearance before their repatriation to the Philippines.
"How could this have happened? The Philippine authorities should have been closely monitoring their repatriation process. How come that the three were only made aware that other charges had been leveled against them and were informed of it only when the verdict has been given," Bultron further said.
APMM urged the Philippine government to exert efforts to reverse the new Court decision. It also said that after more than five years of imprisonment for a crime they never commited, the three OFWs "deserve their freedom and to be immediately reunited with their families." Bulatlat.com