After spending more than four years in detention in Martinique over drug trafficking charges, five Filipino seafarers finally arrived home.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Friday night the five seafarers arrived in Manila Thursday morning.
"Upon the DFA's instructions, the Philippine Embassy in Paris made strong representations with the French authorities, which effected the reduction of sentences and earlier release of the five seafarers," the DFA said on its website.
The five seafarers were among the 11 Filipinos aboard the Panamanian-registered MV Master Endeavor, who were arrested and detained in Martinique on March 22, 2006 over drug trafficking charges.
This was after French Navy and Customs officials discovered 1.8 tons of cocaine hidden in the vessel's water tank on February 27, 2006.
The 11 Filipino seafarers were found guilty of the charges in February 2010 and the French court imposed sentences ranging from five to 14 years' imprisonment.
Earlier, two seafarers from the same vessel were released and repatriated to the Philippines in March 2010.
The DFA’s Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs continues to work closely with the Embassy to facilitate the repatriation of the four other seafarers who are still detained in Martinique, the release stated.
While the DFA did not name the five seafarers, an article on the United Filipino Seafarers (UFS) website named the 11 seafarers, mostly over 50 years old, as Capt. Lee Macoy, Ramil Aguilar, Porferio Atienza, Christopher Baylosis, Joseph Cosare, Basilio Cuyos, Johnny Galapon, Reynaldo Galedo, Samuel Lubiano, Hermogenes Misa and Efren Nillos.
The UFS article said the Filipinos and three Latino crewmembers of the vessel were "shipped like animals for slaughter on a 20-day trip to Martinique, France."
“Nakaposas ang mga kamay at mga paa naming, kaya pagdating namin sa France, magang-maga ang aming mga katawan (Our hands and feet were shackled so that when we reached France, our bodies were badly swollen)," said Misa.
The Filipino crewmembers earlier claimed they did not know that the 120 sacks they picked up at Tobago, Venezuela, contained cocaine with an estimated worth of $200 million.
Martinique, an island in the eastern Caribbean sea, is an overseas region of France. —JV, GMANews.TV