Press Release
September 8, 2009

Push for prisoner-exchange treaties with other countries -- Chiz

Opposition Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday called on the government to work on prisoner-exchange agreements similar to that signed with Spain, especially with countries where more Filipinos are languishing in jail.

"The country should push for similar treaties in countries where there are more overseas Filipino workers in prison serving their sentences than Spain. It should be a priority to show that we are not favoring anyone," Escudero said.

The RP-Spain Transfer of Sentenced Persons Agreement has sparked protests after the transfer of convicted rapist Francisco Juan "Paco" Larrañaga, a dual Filipino-Spanish citizen, to a Spanish prison had been approved by virtue of the treaty.

Larrañaga, 32, was convicted with six others of raping and murdering the sisters Jacqueline and Marijoy Chiong in Cebu in 1997. Their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment after President Arroyo abolished the death penalty.

Escudero said a Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) report in 2007 shows that some 4,770 Filipinos are now imprisoned in 63 jails in different countries. The most number being in Malaysia (1,600), followed by Japan (734), Qatar (554), United States (406), Abu Dhabi (198), Saudi Arabia (161) and Hong Kong (127).

"These OFWs face and serve long sentences in countries where their families cannot visit them. To some, a long sentence amounts to a death sentence because they are not able to hear from or see their families ever again," Escudero, chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, said.

The senator also said that the agreement should not be on a quid pro quo basis, which means that all prisoners should be transferred to their country of origin whether or not there is an equal number of foreign nationals in Philippine prisons.

He also said that it was Spain who pushed for the prisoner-exchange treaty with the Philippines. "We really cannot fault Spain for looking after the welfare of its citizens in prison in other countries. We should do the same especially if we have more of our citizens in foreign jails rather than the other way around," Escudero said.

The senator also said his office will be inquiring with the Department of Justice if the procedures under the prisoner exchange treaty with Spain had been complied with in the case of Larrañaga.

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