OFW given new lease on life

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014


MABALACAT CITY -- Vice-President Jejomar Binay said Wednesday that Kapampangan Overseas Filipino worker Joselito Zapanta has been given another month to raise the blood money needed to spare him from the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.

"His chances are getting better. Mr. Zapanta might not be executed. We were given another one month extension," Binay said in an interview.

Zapanta, who hails from Cabalantian in Bacolor, Pampanga, was sentenced to death after killing Imam Ibrahim, a Sudanese national, over a rental dispute in 2009.

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Ibrahim's family initially demanded SAR 5 million for the execution of an affidavit of forgiveness and prevent the imposition of the death penalty, but later reduced the amount to SAR 4 million.

The payment of the blood money was originally due on November 12, 2012, but was extended to March 12, 2013. A second extension was granted, with the deadline moved to November 3, 2013.

Binay earlier said that Aquino had already given a "substantial" amount to augment Zapanta's blood money but was still not enough to meet the amount being demanded by the victim’s family.

The Vice President also said the government is still negotiating with the victim's family to further lower the amount.

"First of all, the victim's wife has not returned to Saudi yet, she's still in [Sudan]. Second, we are still in talks with [Saudi] officials to help us save Mr. Zapanta's life," he said.

Earlier, Binay welcomed President Benigno Aquino's creation of a committee tasked to study and create guidelines on the payment of blood money for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on death row in the Middle East.

Binay said that having clear-cut guidelines on the use of blood money would greatly speed up the process of saving OFWs from the death penalty in Arab countries where the Sharia law applies.

Blood money is the financial compensation paid to the heirs of a victim in exchange for the execution of an affidavit of forgiveness.

Binay said as of January 14, there are 26 death penalty cases in the Middle East involving OFWs being monitored by the Department of Foreign Affairs Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Worker’s Affairs.

The committee is tasked to study all aspects of blood money cases, including who is eligible for blood money and studying each and every case requiring the payment of blood money in the future.

The committee will also study other types of support the government can provide OFWs. (With Jun M. Sarmiento/Sunnex)

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on February 13, 2014.

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