Filipina overseas worker denied legal counsel by consulate in Dubai

ANTIPOLO CITY, Philippines—For Mirasol, 38 years old, and a former accountant in a firm in Dubai, the Sharjah Central Jail has become her second home for the past two years.

“The company framed me, making me a sacrificial lamb. They say I have forged checks with the total amount of AED800, 000 which I did not do at all. I am just following orders from my manager,” read Mirasol’s letter dated September 25, 2008 addressed to former senator and now presidential contender, Manny Villar.

Based on that same letter, on February 10, 2008, to her surprise—her sponsor and manager—have brought her to the police station. Only then, she learned that she was accused of forgery.

“Upon entering the prison, the prison authorities have confiscated her personal belongings like mobile phone and cash amounting to AED5, 000 (P63, 515.83 based on the 30 January 2010 FOREX),” says Nhel Morona, secretary-general of Migrante-UAE said in a statement.

No help from the Consulate

She and her husband immediately sought the help of the Philippine Consulate in Dubai but apparently, it has turned a deaf ear.

“Mirasol has to face her case alone, with no lawyer to defend her,” Morona said.

The poor Filipina was sentenced of one year imprisonment. However, because of her plea, the Sharjah court has reduced the sentence to six months, and after that, she will get deported.

But there is no freedom for her on June 30: the supposed date of her release. Her employer filed a new case against her, this time a civil case: Civil Case No. 2008/1663.

After the last hearing of the aforementioned case on September 14, she was again slapped by a civil case (Case No. 2008/9064). This time, her employer wants Mirasol to pay AED300,000 (almost P3.3 Million) for “damages.”

The said amount has been paid. Though according to Mirasol, her signature was forged in one of her checks so that the amount could be released.

Because of the new cases, the Sharjah court has ordered Mirasol to remain in jail.

Defenseless

“Mirasol, who is now suffering from erratic blood pressure and even thinking that she would go insane due to the inhumane treatment of prisoners by the UAE prison authorities, will never be in jail if she has a lawyer to defend her,” explains John Leonard F. Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, now in Manila.

Monterona said it was only this January 18th when Maria received the letter from the DFA-OUMWA, advising her sister to get a lawyer for her defense. Mirasol’s next hearing is set on February 7th.

“During the case dialogue on January 26 in the DFA, Maria pleaded to the DFA-OUMWA to provide her sister legal assistance. However, the OUMWA representative said there is no assurance that they can provide Mirasol a lawyer. This is really unforgivable,” says Monterona said in an email sent to this reporter.

“With the new civil cases filed against her, the Philippine Consulate General in Dubai, this time, should provide legal assistance to Mirasol so that she could be properly represented and defended in court. Besides, it is clearly stated in RA 8042 or the the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 that whenever an OFW is facing a legal case abroad, he or she must be provided  legal assistance by the government,” Monterona added. (Dateline Philippines)