By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – The family of Joselito Zapanta, an overseas Filipino worker who was recently granted a three-month reprieve from being sentenced to die, is asking for help to raise the much-needed $1.1 million blood money.
“No matter what happens, we cannot afford to pay (for the blood money) because we do not have money,” Jesus, Joselito’s father, said in a GMAnews.tv.
Joselito was sentenced to die in 2009 after allegedly killing his Sudanese landlord on May 26, 2009. Since then, his family has been trying to find ways to save him. Even his children, in the same GMAnews.tv report, said they are saving their allowances to help their father.
“I hope that he would be freed soon because I miss him. I want to see him,” his son, whose name has been withheld in the report, said.
So far, however, his family and friends have managed to raise only $250,000.
Saudi Arabian King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud announced earlier this week a blanket deferment of all pending death penalties, which included that of Joselito’s. According to an ABS-CBN news report, the three-month moratorium may be “due to the fact that there is a new governor.”
“Saudi tradition dictates that no death sentence will be carried out for a maximum of three months into the governor’s new term,” the report read.
Joselito left his hometown in Mexico Pampanga on April 24, 2008 to work as a tile setter in Riyadh. For six months, he did not receive a single centavo for his work, forcing him to apply for a job, still as a tile setter, elsewhere.
Mona, his mother, told Bulatlat.com in an interview back in 2010 that everything was turning out well until, on May 26, 2009, Joselito’s Sudanese landlord went to his work site to ask for his payment. “The conversation turned into an argument, then to a fight. In trying to defend himself, Joselito ended up killing his landlord when he hit him with a hammer,” a previous Bulatlat.com report read.
“(Joselito) told me that if he did not kill his landlord, he would have been killed,” Mona said.
No help from government
Migrante International, an OFW group, for its part, said in a recent press conference that it would not have reached this point if only the government did its part during the early stages of the trial.
The Zapanta family, during their interview with Bulatlat.com in 2010, bewailed the government’s failure to keep them informed on what is happening to Joselito’s case.
Jesus, citing a phone conversation with his son, said that no lawyer has ever visited him in jail.
“He was not even provided with an interpreter when Saudi policemen made him sign and place his thumb mark in a document that he could not understand because it was written in Arabic,” a previous report read.
He added that officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs did not even give him the name of the lawyer who is supposedly representing his son.
“How could they hire and purportedly pay $10,000 to a lawyer when they do not even know his complete name?”
Mercy mission still needed
Migrante’s chapter in the Middle East, in a statement, said that while they are thankful for the king’s royal decree, the Aquino administration should “reconsider sending a ‘mercy mission’ to, once and for all, ask the Saudi government and the family of the Sudanese that Zapanta killed to issue forgiveness amid the efforts by the Zapanta side to raise the amount needed for the blood money.”
“A comprehensive legal and diplomatic blue print should be crafted by the concerned Philippine government agencies to save the OFWs not only in Saudi death row but others in foreign jails as well,” John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, said.
Monterona added that their chapters in the Middle East would spearhead vigil prayers and demonstrations to press the Aquino government to intensify its efforts to save Zapanta and other OFWs in Saudi facing death row.
He added, “Just like the previous administrations, the Aquino government failed to formulate a blue print to save the OFWs on death row precisely because it failed to recognize that most OFWs are victims of the government’s intensified labor export program, joblessness, and poverty.”