Gov't called to act on cases of Filipino seafarers jailed in Nigeria
Various government agencies were called on today to act swiftly in helping 13 Filipino crewmen of the tanker MT Akuada who have been languishing in jail in Nigeria since November last year.
Independent Senator Richard Gordon made the call as he vowed to extend all the help he could give to the Filipino seafarers in his capacity as senator and as chairman and chief executive officer of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC).
"I have called the attention of the DFA, OWWA and POEA to look into the cases of these Filipino crewmen who have been in jail for more than two months now. The government should be doing the necessary actions to help them," he said.
Gordon said he wants to know from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) what really happened to the seafarers and if they are being provided with the necessary legal assistance to represent them in the Nigerian court.
He also ordered the Philippine Overseas Employment Authority (POEA) to cancel the license of Seagem, the local manning agent of the Greek ship owner Maritime Management Synergy, which is suspected to have dealings with rebel groups in the Niger Delta.
The 13 seafarers who were arrested are: C/O Erwin Antas, 2/E Ronie Fabricante, C/E Celso Zapanta, Electrician Pedro Germentiza, AB Marcelo Galola, Bosun George Balore, AB Ruel Dosdos, AB Arjay Alvarez, OS Rolan Rao, Oiler Richard Peniano, Oiler Celso Baez, Messman Reagan, and 3/E Sebastian Teodosio.
The Filipino crewmen were apprehended by the Nigerian Navy for allegedly conducting illegal oil transport operations on the behest of their Greek ship owner.
Gordon said Jona Teodosio, wife of Sebastian, and Irene Balore, mother of George, have personally sought the help of Red Cross after receiving information that the two seafarers are reportedly suffering from malaria and pneumonia.
The PNRC chairman immediately requested the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to conduct jail visit and extend possible services to help the seafarers who have been detained at the Port Harcourt Economic Finance and Crime Commission in Port Harcourt Nigeria since Nov. 12, 2008.
"It always saddens me to hear that our fellow Filipinos have to suffer in foreign lands just to provide for the needs of their families here in our country. That is why it is very important for the government to address the concerns of our OFWs," Gordon said.
Last Jan. 6, Gordon also helped bring home four Filipina-Muslim workers who were promised a job at Bahrain but were stranded in Bangkok, Thailand because the plane tickets given by their recruiter were not paid.
The senator ordered the POEA, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to go after the recruiters of the four overseas Filipino workers and to implement measures that would prevent such incidents from happening again.