Binay seeks help for OFW’s blood money

"NOT yet too late to save a life."

Vice President Jejomar Binay said this on Sunday as he appealed for donations to help raise SAR4 million (P45 million) in blood money for Joselito Zapanta, an overseas Filipino worker facing execution in Saudi Arabia.

The Philippine ambassador to Saudi Arabia earlier informed Binay that Zapanta will be executed if the family cannot raise the blood money, which they're supposed to pay the family of his victim.

Zapanta, 33, was sentenced to death by a Saudi court for killing his landlord's accountant, a Sudanese national, and stealing SAR3,000 and two mobile phones in 2007.

Binay admitted that time is running out for Zapanta. The Zapanta family has so far raised SAR512,066.35 or P5.6 million and they have until November 3 to secure the remaining P30 million.

"Tatlong beses na tayong binigyan ng palugit para makapag-raise at binaba iyong halaga. Kaya lang may pasabi ngayon na sa darating na buwan hindi na papayag na ibaba ang halaga. Pero hindi naman nababanggit kung magbibigay pa ng palugit," Binay said. Zapanta was originally scheduled for execution last June 8 but was given until November to raise the blood money.

"Mga kababayan natin Pilipino, sana po matulungan ninyo kami na makapag ipon ng halaga. Talaga po na sobrang laki ng halaga na pinag uusapan dito," Binay appealed to Filipinos.

Zapanta arrived in Saudi Arabia in 2007 to work as tile setter to support his parents and two children. Zapanta's family is hoping that he will return to the Philippines and reunite with them.

The family of Zapanta's Sudanese victim agreed to extend the deadline through the intercession of the Saudi government in response to requests made by President Benigno Aquino III and the Vice President.

Binay held talks with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah over the matter.

Binay said the government has deposited in Saudi Arabia the equivalent of P4 million, the standard amount allotted for blood money cases that qualify for government assistance.

Zapanta's case is the second major death row incident in the Kingdom after Don Don Lanuza.

Meanwhile, various groups are urging the President to allocate his controversial Special Funds to pay the blood money of an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) due for execution next month.

In a statement, Migrante-Middle East and North America coordinator John Leonard Monterona said the Chief Executive must consider donating a considerable amount toward Zapanta's blood money.

"He can take it from his billions of special purpose funds. We also have a standing call to President Aquino to allocate funds for immediate repatriation and to pay for immigration penalties and documentation for more than 4,000 stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia," Monterona told a Philippine-based news agency in Saudi Arabia.

"While we call on fellow OFWs to donate toward the blood money owed by Zapanta, the responsibility to raise an amount for Zapanta's blood money, as well as any other assistance being sought, is at the hand of the Aquino administration," he added.

Another OFW leader Alex Bello, president of Riyadh Based OFWs, said they were able to ask some help but not enough to save the life of Zapanta.

"We wish to help Zapanta, but there is little we can do other than ask for the support of our fellow OFWs."

Organizations of OFWs abroad are calling on the President to donate a considerable amount toward Zapanta's blood money, saying the fund can be taken from the coffer of the government's special purpose funds as they maintained that this is also for a special reason. (Jun Sarmiento/Sunnex)

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