x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Drug-charge Filipina needs legal help, says father

The Philippine government should provide free legal assistance to three Filipinas detained on drug-related charges in Dubai, said the father of one of the women.

DUBAI // The father of a Filipina held since November on drug-related charges has called on the Philippine government to provide legal assistance for his daughter and two other detainees.

Athelo Empleo, 51, a foreman in Saudi Arabia, is the father of 25-year-old Cresilda Empleo, who is being held at Al Muraqqabat police station along with Jackie Lou Bacani and Rhodora Guisinga.

The women were arrested inside Hamarain Mall on November 10 after Ms Guisinga was found with a bag allegedly containing unspecified illegal drugs.

Ms Guisinga was charged with possessing drugs, while Ms Empleo and Ms Bacani were charged with criminal complicity.

They are due to appear at the Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance for their second hearing on May 10.

"They did not have any lawyer and a consulate officer wasn't present at a hearing held on April 5," Mr Empleo said.

He has written letters requesting legal assistance from the Philippine department of foreign affairs (DFA), the Philippine president, Benigno Aquino, and the vice-president, Jejomar Binay.

Mr Empleo said his daughter sought a job in Dubai using a tourist visa. "She did it to support her two children who are now in primary school," he said. "We hope our government will act on my request."

According to a consular report, two representatives from the Philippine consulate in Dubai visited the women in Al Muraqqabat police station.

The report said an Arab man who was a friend of Ms Guisinga drove the three women to the mall where he gave Ms Guisinga a red plastic bag.

Ms Guisinga then left after telling her friends she had to meet someone. The two women were waiting for her to return when they were arrested by a CID officer as accomplices.

Mohammed Pukunum, the head of the assistance to nationals section at the consulate, attended a hearing on January 2 at which Ms Guisinga said Ms Bacani and Ms Empleo were not involved in the drug case, the report said.

Benito Valeriano, the consul-general in Dubai, this week told Migrante, a migrant rights group, that the women failed to qualify for legal assistance based on DFA guidelines.

However, John Leonard Monterona, Migrante's regional co-ordinator, said that Mr Valeriano had sent a request for aid and was waiting on the DFA's reply.

The Philippine consulate in Dubai has to seek approval from the DFA in Manila to provide a legal assistance fund for the women, which would enable them to hire a UAE-based defence lawyer.

The fund was created under the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, which provided stronger protection for expatriate Filipino workers. Priority is given to funding lawyers to defend overseas Filipinos facing the death penalty.