DAVAO CITY – Party-list group Anakpawis said the government did not do enough to stop the execution of Joselito Zapanta, an overseas Filipino worker in Saudi Arabia who was sentenced to death for killing a Sudanese national back in 2009.
The family of Zapanta’s victim refused to grant an Affidavit of Forgiveness in exchange for blood money. Zapanta was executed at 2:20 pm on Tuesday.
Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson and Assistant Secretary Charles Jose said the government has exhausted all diplomatic and legal efforts to assist Zapanta.
But Anakpawis said the government did not do enough to stop the execution.
“We condemn the Aquino government for letting another OFW died by execution yesterday. Zapanta was the eighth OFW executed under the Aquino administration,” said Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap.
“Despite it claimed of extending help, it is obviously not enough to stop the execution, worst the government through the Philippine embassy in the (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) also failed to monitor the exact serving of the sentence. It was a reflection that embassy officials in KSA are nothing but a bunch of incompetent and lazy free loaders. Sayang lang ang pera ng mamamayan na pinapasahod sa mga iyan (The people’s money is wasted on their salaries),” said Hicap.
Hicap also scored the Aquino government for not funding the OFW’s Legal Assistance Fund or LAF in the 2016 national budget. President Benigno Aquino III also “conditionally” vetoed the LAF when signing last year’s national budget.
“The appropriations herein for the legal assistance fund shall be used in accordance with R.A. 10022 or An Act Amending Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 and remain to be part of the General Fund,” Aquino’s veto message said.
The LAF has existed in the General Appropriations Act under the DFA budget. Hicap said under RA 10022, which created the LAF, the government is mandated to allot P100 million annually for OFWs.
“Part of the said fund could have been used to fill up the blood money to stop the execution of Mr. Zapanta if the president, in his own wisdom, saw the importance of the LAF to the OFWs,” said Hicap.
The family of the slain Sudanese was asking for P48 million, but the government was only able to raise P23 million.
Meanwhile, Inorisa Elento, executive director of the Davao City-based Mindanao Migrants Center for Empowering Actions (MMCEAI) said Zapanta’s case is “not isolated”.
The DFA said 80 more OFWs are in death row. Elento said three of them are Davaoeños.
She said one of the OFWs from Davao is in China and is sentenced to death for being a drug-mule, while the other two were involved in murder cases in the Middle East.
Elento in an interview with Davao Today said the Philippine government responds “slowly” with regards to cases of distressed OFWs.
She said the government lacks in providing legal assistance and representation for the OFWs who are facing legal battles in other countries.
“Kasagaran sa gihimo sa gubyerno murag mangayo na lang og pasaylo kung naay mahitabo nga ingon ana. Nganong dili man ta mo-engage og laing pamaagi para atoang matabangan ang atong OFW nga naa sa death row (Usually all the government could do is to ask for forgiveness when an OFW is executed. Why don’t we look for other means to help our OFWs in death row),” she said.
Elento also said the families are usually informed in the later part of the case already.
“Sometimes the family is informed when the case is already at the later part of hearing the charges. There is no clear legal representation provided for the OFWs facing these kinds of situations,” she said.
“If the family will not really push the government to act and give them a lawyer, the government will not provide them with a lawyer,” said Elento.
Elento said with the large amount of remittance provided by OFWs to the country, they should be given due legal assistance.
“It is very questionable if the government cannot provide the legal assistance fund for OFWs,” she said.
OFW cash remittances from January to October this year grew by 3.7 percent at $20.64 billion this year compared to $19.91 billion during the same period last year.
The Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas said it is expecting a four percent increase of remittances from OFWs for 2016 at $26.3 billion. (davaotoday.com)