Manila: The presidential palace on Thursday expressed gratitude to King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia for issuing a reprieve for a Filipino labourer who had been condemned to die by execution for killing his Sudanese landlord in 2009.
In a press briefing at the palace, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the Philippine government appreciates the gesture of the Saudi Arabian monarch to extend the deadline to November 3 for the family of Filipino Joselito Zapanta to come up with blood money while the palace official, same time, appealed for more donors so that the 4 million Saudi riyals demanded by heirs of the Sudanese victim could be fulfilled.
“On behalf of the Zapanta family, we continue to appeal to all kind-hearted individuals for assistance in raising the remaining amount for the blood money,” Lacierda said.
President Benigno Aquino had earlier asked for compassion from King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud concerning Zapanta’s case. The Filipino, who worked as a tile-setter, had claimed that he was only defending himself when he killed the Sudanese
Zapanta, of Bacolor, Pampanga, had been condemned to the death row by a court in Riyadh for killing his Sudanese landlord Saleh Imam Ebrahim.
The Filipino had allegedly killed Ebrahim using a hammer during an argument in 2009 over rent.
According to Lacierda, of the SR 4 million or P44 million (Dh 3.9 million) demanded by the victim’s family as blood money, the Philippine government had so far been able to raise only SR 512,066 or P5.6 million (Dh 497,038).
For his part, Vice-President Jejomar Binay called for more donors.
”We still need to raise P35.8 million to finally secure Joselito’s freedom,” Binay, who is presidential assistant on overseas Filipino concerns, said.
The Saudi Arabian government last March 13 had issued a three-month reprieve for Zapanta’s execution so that his family would be able to raise the blood money demanded by the Sudanese victim’s relatives.
Meanwhile, Binay, renewed his call for Philippine Embassy officials in Riyadh to fast track the processing of exit papers for undocumented overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia.
“I am asking the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh to expedite the processing of exit papers of undocumented Filipinos who want to go back home,” Binay said.
Binay, also called on embassy officials to immediately provide shelter to some 80 OFWs who are currently camped outside the Philippine consulate in Jeddah.
“We should take whatever steps are needed to address the needs of the OFWs who have opted to camp out in front of the consulate,” he appealed.
Earlier, the Saudi Arabian government suspended by three-months a planned crackdown on undocumented workers.
Binay previously called on undocumented OFWs in the kingdom to use take advantage of the reprieve to correct their status.
The drive is part of the Saudi government’s Saudisation policy, which aims to put more Saudi nationals into private sector jobs.