Libyans in PH too afraid to even contact own embassy

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/22 February) — A Libyan vacationing with his family and Filipina wife here has expressed alarm over the deteriorating political situation in Libya as protests calling for the ouster of 40-year leader Muamar Khadaffy has been met with violence from State forces.

“From what we have heard, it is virtually genocide in Benghazi, and people are being silenced by the violent reprisal by government of anti-Khadaffy protests,” said Grace, a Cagayanon married to a Libyan.

Wire reports indicate the crackdown has killed and injured hundreds of protesters.

Grace added that although they are very worried about the safety of their relatives there, his husband is too afraid to even contact the Libyan Embassy here in the Philippines.

“We know that the embassy here is pro-government, pro-Khadaffy,” Grace told Mindanews.

She added communicating by phone or through the internet is also problematic.

She said that they have been informed that there is a communication ban and that people are advised to stay indoors in Tripoli.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has raised the alert level 3 in Libya, meaning Filipinos may seek voluntary repatriation given the worsening social unrest. The DFA has also asked the UN-backed International Organization of Migration for assistance in the emergency repatriation of Filipinos in the oil-rich North African state.

Meanwhile, an activist lawmaker has given a failing mark to retired general Roy Cimatu, Special Envoy in the Middle East, for his reported failure to secure the more than 60,000 Filipinos in the region now beset by unrest.

Political turmoil erupted in Libya, Yemen, Iran and Bahrain days after the Egyptians’ own version of “people power” uprising resulted in the resignation last week of President Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled Egypt for 30 years.

“Libya is deteriorating fast, we are moving from one conflict stage to another rapidly, and there isn’t enough time to be able to go step by step in rescuing OFWs (overseas Filipino workers),” said Walden Bello of the Akbayan party-list.

Bello chairs the House committee on overseas workers’ affairs.

“With the rise in violence, 26,000 Filipinos are in imminent danger,” he warned.

“The sluggish response to the crisis is the result of Cimatu’s failure to conduct the appropriate assessment of the political climate in these areas and develop measures that would expedite the evacuation of our kababayan in a time of crisis,” he observed.

Cimatu continues to be the head of the Presidential Middle East Preparedness Committee, an ad hoc team mandated by the government to “coordinate the preparation and implementation of appropriate responses, policies, and modes of coordination to protect the 1.4 million OFWs in the Middle East.”

Cimatu, a former armed forces chief of staff, made a hasty comeback to the country two weeks ago to deny allegations he was involved in the AFP fund scam, particularly the so-called “pabaon” to retiring chiefs of staff.

Former AFP budget officer Col. George Rabusa alleged that he disbursed P80 million from the controversial AFP slush fund as “pabaon” to Cimatu.

Bello suggested that the DFA take over the task of securing Filipinos in the Middle East as Cimatu has allegedly failed in his task. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)