By Roy Mabasa
Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers Abdullah Mama-o is traveling to Libya on Friday to lead the repatriation of seven Filipino seafarers who were earlier acquitted and ordered released by the Libyan High Court.
The acquitted OFWs were among 20 Filipino seafarers who were taken into custody by the Libyan Coast Guard after they seized the Liberian-flagged tanker while anchored in international waters in 2017.
Libyan authorities accused the Filipino seafarers of attempting to smuggle six million liters of fuel. The 13 crew members were released in February last year but charged the remaining seven — all officers who were sentenced to four years in prison by the lower court last November.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. designated Mama-o to receive the seven acquitted Filipino seafarers on his behalf.
“Cabinet Secretary Mama-o goes to Libya on March 8 as the representative of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs—to be extended all the honors due the office—to receive the 7 acquitted seamen. Take good care of him. He is my good friend,” Locsin said in a tweet this morning.
Last night, Locsin thanked the Libyan foreign minister for inviting him to personally receive the seven OFWs who were sentenced by a lower court to four years in prison for allegedly attempting to smuggle fuel in 2017.
Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Mardomel Melicor said they received a copy of the order of the High Court on Sunday, March 3.
In a report to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Melicor said the Embassy is already coordinating the repatriation of the seven seafarers with Libyan authorities.
Prior to their acquittal, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and Secretary Mama-o asked the government in Tripoli to extend help in securing the release of the OFWs.