x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Consulate engages lawyer for Filipinas held on drug charges

The Philippine government has provided a lawyer to three Filipinas held since November on drug-related charges in Dubai

DUBAI // Three Filipinas held on drug-related charges since November are being represented by a lawyer hired by their consulate after pleas from family members.

The women could not afford legal representation.

The lawyer has already represented one of the women, who gave birth in detention, at two hearings related to the same case this month in the Dubai Court of Misdemeanours.

A verdict on their case is scheduled to be handed down on June 7, said Benito Valeriano, the Philippine consul general in Dubai.

Last month Athelo Empleo, a foreman in Saudi Arabia, had called on the Philippine government to provide legal assistance to his daughter, Cresilda Empleo, 25, and the two other detainees.

Ms Empleo is being held at Al Muraqqabat police station with Jackie Lou Javate Bacani, 31, and Rhodora Guisinga, 36.

"What happened to our daughters is truly heart-breaking," said Mr Empleo, who has written letters requesting legal assistance to the Philippine department of foreign affairs (DFA), the Philippine president Benigno Aquino, and the vice-president Jejomar Binay.

"But now that they have a lawyer we feel less anxious."

Ms Bacani's mother, Gloria Javate, who works as a seamstress in Saudi Arabia, said she felt relieved after speaking to the lawyer last week. Her daughter gave birth to a baby boy on March 16.

"I was really worried for her," Ms Javate said.

The DFA said the women were accused of trafficking Tramadol, an opiate-based painkiller. Ms Guisinga was charged with possessing drugs, while Ms Empleo and Ms Bacani were charged with criminal complicity.

They were arrested in Hamarain shopping centre on November 10 after Ms Guisinga was found with a bag allegedly containing illegal drugs.

Two representatives from the Philippine consulate in Dubai visited the women in Al Muraqqabat, according to a consular report.

The report said a friend drove the three to the mall, then handed Ms Guisinga a red plastic bag.

Ms Guisinga told her friends she had to meet someone and the two were waiting for her to return when they were arrested as accomplices by a Criminal Investigations Department officer, the report said.

Yuri Cipriano, the chairman of the rights group Migrante-UAE, said the Philippine government should consider providing a lawyer to represent other Filipinos, including mistreated maids.

"We hope a lawyer can assist them in filing a case against their former employer and represent them when they appear in court," Mr Cipriano said.