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Government did everything to save OFW from Saudi execution - Palace

Filipino worker Joselito Zapanta
Filipino worker Joselito Zapanta
The government did everything to save overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Joselito Zapanta from execution in Saudi Arabia, contrary to allegations that it was remiss in its duties, a Malacanang official said yesterday.

Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said all forms of diplomatic and legal assistance were extended to Zapanta since he was convicted of murder with robbery by a Riyadh court on April 10, 2010.

Coloma said the death sentence on Zapanta was carried out because the family of his victim refused to execute an affidavit of forgiveness or tanazul in exchange for blood money.

Diplomatic and legal efforts were exhausted to ensure that Zapanta's rights were respected, including appeals that had to be made during the trial of his case, Coloma said.

The government assisted Zapanta's family members so they could visit him at Malaz Central Prison from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2, 2015 and also in November 2012 and March 2013.

"So there is no basis and there is no truth to the allegations that Mr. Zapanta was not given enough assistance," Coloma said.

He said consulates and embassies are required to provide assistance to Filipino workers abroad and that the form and substance of the country's diplomacy were changed to focus on their welfare.

He appealed to Filipinos abroad to follow the laws of the states where they are staying and avoid criminal activities.

Earlier, Rep. Roy Seneres Sr. of the OFW party-list blamed President Aquino for the death of Zapanta, saying he should have appealed to the Saudi king for clemency.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had said executions in Saudi Arabia are not announced.

The DFA said the government did everything to save Zapanta from death.

OFW advocate Susan Ople urged the government to review existing policies on blood money, considering that there were 90 Filipinos on death row all over the world and some of them need blood money.

In Zapanta's case, the government was able to raise P23 million but the family of his Sudanese victim refused to accept the money as the demand was reportedly P48 million.

Ople proposed the creation of a special unit to handle death penalty and blood money cases involving OFWs.

She said a more cohesive and transparent mechanism and policy were needed as more OFWs in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are on death row.

OFW's remains buried in Saudi

The remains of Zapanta would not be brought home to the Philippines as the body was immediately buried after his execution in Saudi Arabia last week, the DFA said.

"He was buried right after his execution based on Saudi law," DFA spokesman Charles Jose said in a text message to The STAR.

Zapanta's family asked the DFA for the repatriation of his remains.

"We should respect the laws of other countries the same way we would like our laws to be respected by others," Jose said.

The 35-year-old Zapanta was beheaded on Dec. 29 in Saudi Arabia for the murder of his Sudanes employer.

However, in Bacolor, Pampanga, the family of Zapanta urged President Aquino to talk to the Saudi king so that his remains could be flown home soon.

Source: The Philippine Star, January 2, 2016
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