14 Pinoys in Moscow freed; Rody sets visit

FOURTEEN of the 17 Filipino workers in Moscow who were detained on May 16 were released the next day, the Philippine Embassy at the Russian capital said Friday.

“Since May 16, the embassy made urgent representations with Russian officials and continues to do so for the remaining three detainees. It is also in close coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs-Office of Migrant Workers Affairs,” the embassy said in a statement.

“In our discussion with Russian authorities, we emphasized that the detainees are victims and not criminals. They are victims of illegal recruitment and should not be punished. They should be set free,” said Ambassador Carlos D. Sorreta.

“Filipinos in Russia obey the law, are hardworking and do not cause problems. There is also a lot of goodwill between the Philippines and Russia today, with increasing prospects for cooperation in a wide range of areas. These factors helped us in securing the release of our Filipinos,” the ambassador said.

“We would like to advise those seeking to work in Russia to follow both Philippine and Russia laws. For those already here, please continue to observe the laws of the country, be respectful to lawful authorities and do not call attention to yourselves,” he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to sign a defense agreement with Russia when he visits Moscow and Saint Petersburg from May 23 to 26, the Foreign Affairs Department said Friday.

Among deals expected to be signed are a defense cooperation agreement, a memo of understanding on cooperation between the security councils of the two countries, a treaty on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters and an extradition treaty.

In a pre-departure briefing in Malacañang on Friday, Department of Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Maria Cleofe Natividad said President Duterte’s upcoming visit to Russia is expected to mark a new chapter in the bilateral relations between the Philippines and Russia.

“We also see this visit as an indication of our strong common desire to enhance and strengthen bilateral relations,” Natividad said, noting that the bilateral ties are still at a nascent stage.