MANILA - Vice President Noli de Castro on Saturday appealed to Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak to defer the massive deportation of undocumented overseas Filipino workers in Sabah until after the Ramadan.
In a letter to Razak, De Castro, who is also presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers, stressed the need for Kuala Lumpur to stop the deportation process to enable Manila to prepare for the reception and relocation of the OFWs.
Earlier, Malaysia announced it would conduct a large-scale operation against undocumented workers in Sabah, a move that was expected to affect hundreds of thousands of Filipinos working there.
De Castro said the operation, which has started in June, would affect Filipino-Muslims in Sabah who will bear its brunt during the holy month of Ramadan.
"In the spirit of humanitarian concern during the holy month, I wish to appeal to your excellency to stay the implementation of the large-scale operation until after the holy month of Ramadan," De Castro told Razak.
The Malaysian government has said it would continue to adopt an orderly and humane approach in the detention and deportation of undocumented Filipino workers.
De Castro said the government was prepared to ensure the safety of the deportees, including the repatriation of 500 Filipinos currently held at a temporary detention center in Menggatal and to expedite the issuance of their travel documents.
In another development, the government is closely monitoring eight potential death penalty cases involving OFWs in different parts of the world.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos said there were 29 active death penalty cases in various stages of appeal.
Of the 29, 11 are in Malaysia, nine in Saudi Arabia, four in China, three in Kuwait, one in Brunei, and one in the United States.
Conejos said the DFA was handling a total of 62 death penalty cases from January 2006 to June 2008, of which 24 have been commuted to life. Of the 24, 11 have been released and repatriated back to the Philippines.
The DFA official also revealed that a total of 252 OFWs had received legal assistance during the same period, while 254 others had been involved in human trafficking cases.
Conejos reported that 7,712 OFWs worldwide had been extended various assistance such as shipment of remains and medical assistance.
In 2006 alone, he said, the DFA helped repatriate some 11,000 OFWs from Lebanon; 228 from Kazakhstan; and 90 from East Timor due to war, civil unrest, and labor disputes.
The government also helped secure the release of 147 OFWs involved in hostage-takings, kidnappings and other emergency situations in other countries, particularly in Nigeria and Somalia, Conejos said.