Thursday, 24 February 2011 14:12
As the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) warms up for negotiation with China for the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Agreement (TSPA), Senator Chiz Escudero urged the department to do the same with other countries where there are overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Escudero, who earlier called for the Philippine government to initiate TSPA with countries hosting OFWs, thanked and commended the DFA for heeding the call, adding that such move indicates the government’s sensitivity to the plight and welfare of our people.
The TSPA is an agreement which provides individuals who have been tried and convicted in a signatory country the option to serve the remaining portion of their sentences in their home country. At present, the Philippines has TSPA with Thailand, Hong Kong and Spain.
“The issue of prisoner swap is highly emotional and delicate. We have to carefully tread within the ambit of a particular country’s laws, which we would also like other countries to respect ours. But as a government, it behooves us to do everything within our capacity to give our people what the government should – to protect its people in and out of the country," Escudero said.
The senator reiterated that pursuing the prisoner-swap agreement does not and should not be considered as condoning or even clearing a convicted OFW of crime.
"Again, it is not for us to decide whether a person is guilty or innocent. Let us leave that to the courts. But let us not leave our fellow Filipinos without the benefit of rights and dignities upheld. If they must pay for their crimes, let them pay for it but let us bring them closer to their families and loved ones. Death has already come to a person who knows he would not see or talk to any of his loved ones anymore forever," Escudero explained.
As of February this year, there are 209 Filipinos involved in drug-trafficking cases in China based on the records of the DFA. Six have been sentenced to die with no reprieve, 74 others are facing death penalty with two-year reprieve, 38 with life imprisonment, 76 are currently serving fixed jail terms, and 15 are in custody pending issuance of sentence.
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