By Joey Aguilar/Staff Reporter

Eighteen Filipinos serving different sentences have been pardoned by HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan, Ambassador Crescente Relacion has said.
“The Philippine government is very thankful to HH the Emir and the Qatar government for pardoning the 18 people. It is a gesture of a friendly country and we are very happy with this good news,” he stressed.
Of those freed, eight had been charged with immorality, three with theft, two each with selling liquor and breach of trust and one each with possession of shabu (methamphetamine), fraud and unpaid loan. “These are considered minor crimes,” Relacion said, adding that the 18 - 10 men and eight women - will be sent to the Deportation Centre for repatriation to the Philippines. This batch could be considered the biggest group of Filipinos to be pardoned in the last few years, he added.  
The Philippine embassy had earlier submitted the names of Filipinos convicted of various crimes to the Qatar government before the start of Ramadan for possible commutation or pardon. Embassy officials have been regularly visiting them in  jails to check their condition.
Vice-consul Melvin Almonguera told Gulf Times that around 100 more Filipinos were serving their sentences in Qatar while others had ongoing cases in courts.
It is learnt that those who have been convicted of serious crimes are held at the Central Jail while those with lighter offences are detained at the Deportation Centre, awaiting repatriation.
The vice-consul said the number was small as there were about 200,000 Filipino expatriates in Qatar. “It is not alarming and we hope that many will be pardoned in the future.”
Leaders of various groups and community schools in Qatar have lauded and praised HH the Emir for pardoning the 18 Filipinos. “We are very thankful to HH the Emir for granting pardon to them,” said Philippine School of Doha principal Alexander Acosta.
During Qatar National Day on December 18 last year, five Filipinos (three men and two women) were pardoned. Crimes committed by them ranged from adultery to theft and threats.
At various events organised by the Filipino community, the ambassador keeps reminding overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to abide by the rules and regulations of the host country to avoid being jailed or penalised.
OFWs have been urged to attend the pre-departure orientation seminar (PDOS) in the Philippines and post-arrival orientation seminar (PAOS) to learn about the laws and policies of the countries where they work.
The Foundation for Family and Life (FFL) Migrant Workers, which conducts the PAOS in many labour camps in Qatar, has reiterated the importance of the two seminars for Filipinos working in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, Almonguera said although “immorality” and “selling liquor” were not considered crimes in the Philippines, he advised OFWs to respect the laws of the host countries where they worked.

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