Relatives of the seven Filipino crewmen who were seized and detained in Libya in 2017 on Tuesday appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to help facilitate the immediate release of the sailors who were imprisoned for alleged oil smuggling.
Detained officers of Greek-owned oil tanker MT Levante were Arthur Soria Taleno, master; Fulgencio Pederito Eulogio, first officer; Claro Camintay Allera, second officer; Abraham Senara Naduma, Jr., third officer; Ronnie Lumales Moniya, chief engineer; Gil Dellupac Cruzada, second engineer; and Aldwin Salang-oy Emperada, third engineer.
At a press conference, their relatives denied the seamen were involved in smuggling and claimed they were seized by armed militia off international waters.
Since the ouster and killing of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has been plagued by civil unrest and armed hostilities.
Numerous armed militias, who control several detention facilities, have attempted to wrest control of capital Tripoli since Gaddafi’s downfall in 2011.
The sailors, the relatives said, are illegally detained at Mitiga airbase jail facility, one of the biggest detention cells in Tripoli, where an estimated 2,600 men, women and children are believed to be held, most without charge or trial.
“We appeal to President Duterte to please help us. We need your immediate assistance,” Crystal Allera, wife of 2nd officer Claro Allera, said. “They are innocent. They didn’t violate any law.”
The seven were part of the 20 all-Filipino crew of the oil tanker. A case has been filed against them by the Attorney General’s Office.
Charges against the 13 other sailors were dropped and they were subsequently freed on February 17, 2018.
Raquel Eulogio, wife of 1st officer Fulgencio Eulogio, also asked Duterte to provide a lawyer for the detained sailors and to form a task force that will handle their case.
Through the intervention of the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli, the relatives were able to get in touch with the detained crew for the first time via video conference in November 2018.
They said the sailors appeared well, but they complained of the cramped detention space, insufficient food and unclean drinking water.
“We are appealing to the President to extend all the relevant, viable and timely aid for the seafarers to realize their safety and immediate return,” said Merill Del Rosario, daughter of 2nd engineer Gil Cruzada.
Donna Malapad, representative of Capt. Arthur Tolentino, said the lives of the Filipino sailors are in danger because the detention facility where they are now is subject to attacks by other militias as Mitiga jail is managed by SDF Rada.
The relatives also called for enforcement of mandatory repatriation of Filipino workers in Libya, saying it is no longer safe for foreign workers.
Even the United Nations has difficulty visiting the jail in Mitiga and despite repeated requests, they are continued to be denied access to the facility.
Militia leader Abdel Rahman Milad alias Bija, former head of the Libyan Coast Guard in al-Zawiya, ordered the seizure of MT Levante. He was suspended from his post on June 22, 2018 and is now a wanted fugitive.
On June 7, 2018, the UN Security Council placed global asset freezes and travel bans on six leaders of human trafficking networks, four Libyan nationals, including Milad, and two Eritrean nationals.
In 2015, a Filipino worker was beheaded by militants and a Filipina nurse was gang-raped, while another was injured in an attack on an upscale hotel in capital Tripoli, highlighting the risks being faced by some 4,000 remaining Philippine workers there.
Last year, a South Korean, along with three Filipino engineers, were kidnapped by armed men off a water project site in western Libya on July 6. They remain in captivity.
Despite repeated appeals from the Philippine government to leave, many of them chose to stay despite the widespread violence, citing lack of jobs back home. —KBK, GMA News