MANILA – Nineteen Philippine and three Polish seafarers have been arrested in Mexico for allegedly violating the country’s illegal drug law, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Tuesday.
The seafarers, who were aboard the Cypriot-flagged UBC Savannah vessel, were detained for questioning by Mexican authorities on July 27.
“Embassy representatives were able to speak with seven of the Filipino seafarers currently detained for questioning,” said the department in a statement, adding that the family members of the detainees have already been informed of their situation.
DFA said that no formal charges have been leveled against the Filipinos so far and that the embassy is in “close coordination” with both Mexican authorities and the law firm representing the ship’s crew.
“The DFA stands ready to provide any form of assistance, including legal assistance if still necessary, to protect the Filipino seafarers’ right to be heard in court,” the statement added.
However, DFA warned that if the Philippine seafarers are found guilty, “they have to face the legal consequences of their actions.”
Philippine authorities have warned on several occasions since the start of this year that drug cartels from Mexico and Colombia have been using the Philippines as a port of entry for cocaine to other Asian countries.
Last week, a Filipino woman was arrested in Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia on charges of trafficking around six kilos of shabu – a cheap and widely consumed version of methamphetamine – to whom the Philippine government will offer free legal assistance.
In June 2016, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte three years launched a bloody anti-drugs campaign aimed primarily at shabu, which has already claimed the lives of 6,700 suspects in raids, according to the police.
However, human rights groups put the number of people killed at over 27,000.