MANILA – The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia is assisting 18 Filipinos who were arrested for illegal “mixed gathering", the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Monday.
The Filipinos were arrested by Saudi police during an August 14 raid in an apartment at the Badiyah Area in Riyadh. They were reportedly holding a meeting.
Saudi laws forbid the gathering of men and women in private and public places unless they are married couples or are with their families.
The group of arrested Filipinos included eight FiIipina workers, and 10 officers and members of Migrante International in Saudi Arabia, an alliance of migrant organizations.
Agnes Cervantes, DFA executive director for Migrants’ Workers Affairs, has assured Migrante National Office chairperson Gary Martinez that the DFA will continue to closely monitor the case and provide possible legal assistance.
With this assurance, the Embassy reminded all concerned to be mindful of and observe local customs, traditions and laws in Saudi Arabia.
Mr. Ricardo “Eric” Joson, Migrante’s Riyadh coordinator, and two others have already been released.
The rest of the arrested Filipinos, meantime, remain under police custody while the legitimacy of their stay in Saudi Arabia is being evaluated by the examination of their “iqamas.”
An “iqama” is the official identity card for an individual’s residence permit in Saudi Arabia.
Philippine Embassy representatives earlier told the investigating officer that Migrante is a non-government organization recognized by the Embassy.
They also said that a meeting might have been taking place when the residence of a Migrante member was raided.
The Embassy personnel immediately went to the police station where they checked on the welfare of the detained Filipinos, as instructed by Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Antonio Villamor.
They were also allowed to observe the conduct of the investigation.
In addition, the Embassy representatives offered to contact the employers of the Filipino workers and requested Saudi police authorities to allow them temporary release to their employers.
In alleged immorality cases, only the Saudi Prosecutor’s Office can recommend “kafala,” the sponsorship system where employers have control over their workers’ visas, after the investigation.
Police authorities transmitted the case of the Filipino workers to the Prosecutor’s Office on Aug. 16 for further action.