A Filipino migrant rights group in the Middle East today asks the Department of Foreign Affairs-Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Affairs (OUMWA) and the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh to investigate the alleged heavy beating of an OFW on death row in a central jail in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
“The family of an OFW on death row Joselito Zapanta has reported to us, through Migrante International in Manila, that he has been heavily beaten inside his jail in Riyadh, Saudi’s capital, and that they are asking for his protection,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.
Monterona said if the report is true, then OFW Zapanta’s family has reason to worry for the safety of their beloved and doomed OFW inside the Malaz Central Jail in Riyadh who they said could hardly eat now due to heavy blows.
Monterona, however, said that the family could not give information of who is beating him inside the jail.
“It might be fellow prisoner of other nationalities whom OFW Zapanta could not make friends with,” Monterona added.
“I have been calling the mobile numbers he used to call me inside his cell since yesterday, but it’s only ringing; there is an instance that someone will answer my call, but not Joselito. When I asked to let me speak with Joselito, the line was cut,” Monterona added.
Monterona has been calling on the Philippine Embassy-Assistance to the National Unit (ANU) to investigate the alleged beating as reported to them by OFW Zapanta’s family.
“The RP post officer-in-charge on his case should visit him in jail as often as possible to closely watch OFW Zapanta’s and other jailed OFWs’ conditions in jail. It should make representation to jail authorities and investigate, discuss the alleged beating and secure their safety and well being,” Monterona said.
Monterona also said that he had spoken to an official of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh about the status of his case particularly the hiring of the services of a Shariah law expert or Shariah lawyer to defend OFW Zapanta’s case since it has been elevated to Saudi’s Appellate court for automatic review and appeal.
“The legal assistance to the doomed OFW Joselito Zapanta, 30, from Mexico, Pampanga —
Including hiring a Shariah court lawyer –- should long have been settled the moment the appeal for his case has been elevated automatically and immediately to Saudi’s Court of Appeals after he was handed the death sentence last April 2010,” Monterona explained.
Monterona said he had asked the RP post in Riyadh if it has already hired a Shariah lawyer to defend OFW Zapanta in the Appellate Court, where his case is being reviewed.
Monterona charged that the RP post had failed to provide legal assistance to Zapanta in hiring a defense lawyer expert about shariah law when his case was still at the lower court.
“I have spoken to an official of Philippine Embassy and asked if they already hired a lawyer for OFW Zapanta but the official refused to give any information and said instead that the family should ask the DFA-OUMWA directly in Pasay,” Monterona said.
He added that the status of OFW Zapanta’s case now on appeal must be disclosed to the family so that they could make necessary actions and decisions to save Zapanta.
‘If the RP post in Riyadh and the DFA were not transparent in the updating of Zapanta’s case, then we could only expect unfavorable surprises,” Monterona said.
OFW Zapanta was deployed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as tile setter on October 2008.
He ran away from his original employer because the latter denied him his salary for 6 months. Zapanta found another job and rented a room managed by a Sudanese national.
He has been in Malaz Central Jail in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia since June 2009.
“According to OFW Zapanta, he has been brutally beaten by his Sudanese landlord when he refused to pay his rent that at that time was not yet due; he fought back and accidentally killed the Sudanese; that was in June 2009,” Monterona said.
On April 13, 2010, OFW Zapanta managed to call his family and inform them that the Court of First Instance had given him a death sentence, and that he has until May 1, 2010 to file an appeal before the Appellate Court.