Jailed in Libya: SEAFARERS HOME AGAIN
Seven Filipino seafarers touched familiar soil after landing at 6:59 pm, March 12, at the Ninoy Aquino Intl Airport (NAIA) aboard Turkish Airline TK84, from Libya via Istanbul, Turkey.
A Libyan High Court ordered their release February 28th after a year and half ordeal on charges of smuggling 16 million litters of oil on board the M/T Levante, Liberian flagged.
They are Arthur Taleño, Fulgencio Eulogio, Abraham Naduma, Gil Mercedes, Aldwin Emperado, Ronnie Moniva and Claro Aliera, seven of the 20 Filipinos arrested by the Libyan Coast Guard while anchored in intl waters.
The 13 crewmembers were released in February 2018. But in November, the seven officers were sentenced to four years in prison for attempting to smuggle, but reversed on appeal.
Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Affairs Abdullah Mamao was elated on the “speedy disposition” as the seafarers can go again to any country because of their innocence.
Mamao credits Pres. Rodrigo Duterte and Foreign Affairs Sec. Teddy Locsin, among a bevy of government functionaries, for the positive resolution of the case.
Labor Sec. Silvestre Bello III and OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac joined the families at the NAIA, held a press conference and prepared dinner for all.
Capt. Taleño was profused in gratitude, foremost to the Lord, and Duterte, Locsin, Mamao and Celo Melicor, Chargé d'Affaires and our Consul General at Tripoli, Libya.
He also cited BMC Pres. Desiree Page who took in stride incessant demands of stressed dependents of the jailed mariners; also, took the tab on lawyers and expenses in Libya while the principal underwrote costs of repatriation and huge expenses on the damaged vessel.
Evalend Shipping (principal of BMC on 21 bulk and tankers) could not establish credible talks nor sense from Libya. It took another tact in Greece, calling for a trade boycott against Libya. The world may hear but could not listen given the sweet oil of Libya is coveted by industries and elemental for economies.
The support of family cannot be under-estimated, hanging on for the seafarers while under stress for loss income, gnawing loneliness, self-pity, uncertainties. Prayers help but the pragmatics of running a household are debilitating to weaker souls.
They continue to meet despite odds: some travelling from Leyte in the Visayas and Pangasinan in Luzon. They have to work morning after midnights of meeting. The group chats assuage, but deepen pain (like learning their loved ones eat by hand on one basin; charity creeping as mercy just to survive physically, self-worth swallowed with the food).
They touched base on just about anyone caring to listen, or pretending to: government officials and underlings, politicians and do-gooders, chancing for any meaningful work even from just gestures or clearly press consumption and photo ops.
Sec. Bello leads government agencies in announcing various assistance to the repatriated seafarers, from alternative jobs to livelihood and cash grants.
These could be meaningful as Capt. Taleno now complaints BMC has been remised in giving accrued salary, hazard pay and benefits like insurance, lost belongings, post medical care.