Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said he has proposed that the Department of Foreign Affairs hire a good Thai lawyer to defend Bacoleña Flory May Talaban and a Filipino counsel to monitor cases of all Overseas Filipino Workers abroad.
Colmenares said the Public Attorney’s Office is willing to form a team to monitor such cases and give advice.
Talaban, 28, has been sentenced to life imprisonment and is now jailed at the Ngam Wong Wan Central Women’s Institution in Bangkok, Thailand after she was arrested on May 3, 2009 for alleged possession of illegal drugs.
In response to its request to provide Talaban with the legal assistance of a Filipino defense counsel, Philippine Ambassador to Thailand Linglingay Lacanlale has informed the Bacolod Sangguniang Panlungsod that the practice of the legal profession in Thailand is restricted to Thai nationals.
Colmenares said those hired by the Thai Court to defend those facing charges in Thailand are “pro bono” lawyers who volunteer their services for free.
If a foreign lawyer is not allowed, the Philippine government should hire a Thai lawyer to represent Talaban seriously, Colmenares said.
If the DFA claims it has no funds, that should not be a justification since the government is able to give intelligence funds, to other matters that are not so important, he added.
Colmenares said the OFW’s are the source of so much income for the Philippines so it is but proper for the government to also spendfor their legal defense abroad.
Meanwhile, Colmenares said he was informed by the DFA that Talaban was not included in the request of President Benigno Aquino III to the Thai King for royal pardon.
He said Aquino has requested for royal pardon for 20 Filipino drug mules.
Colmenares said that, according to the DFA, Talaban was not included in the list since she wanted to pursue her appeal.
Talaban told himshe will not abandon her appeal because she is not guilty, he said. If one wants to ask for pardon, he/she has to withdraw his/her appeal, he added.
Colmenares said Talaban is firm that she has not done anything wrong, so they will respect that.
“I told her that if she wins her appeal, good. But if she loses, she should write me in a year’s time and I will ask the President to request the Thai King that she be granted royal pardon,” he said.*CGS