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Grace period for blood money extended

Family given four months to raise blood money; amount could be lowered for Filipino who killed Sudanese

Gulf News

Manila: Family members of an overseas Filipino worker were given four months to raise blood money, the amount of which could be lowered from an initial demand of 55 million pesos (Dh4.58 million), to atone for the 2009 killing of a Sudanese accountant who worked for a construction firm in Saudi Arabia, radio and TV reports said.

The family of the Sudanese victim has agreed to lower the amount of blood money and gave the mother and daughter of Joselito Zapanta four months to raise it, Vice-President Jejomar Binay said in a radio interview with DZBB.

“Our Ambassador Ezzedin Tago in Saudi Arabia worked hard for this,” Binay said, adding he learned about this positive development at dawn of Wednesday.

Zapanta’s mother and sister went to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday night, bringing with them the 4.39 million pesos (Dh365,833) that they raised as initial payment of blood money to the Sudanese family, Manila’s foreign affairs department spokesman Raul Hernandez said.

They also brought with them Vice-President Binay’s letter, addressed to high authorities in Saudi Arabia, for the extension of the payment of blood money to the aggrieved Sudanese family, said Hernandez.

The Undersecretary for Migrant and Workers Affairs (of the foreign affairs department) accompanied Zapanta’s mother and sister in Saudi Arabia, Hernandez said, adding that Sudanese embassy officials in Riyadh and representatives of the Saudi king also interceded on Zapanta’s behalf.

Earlier, the Zapanta family was given only a month’s reprieve and was scheduled to pay the entire amount of blood money by December 14. That was before the Sudanese family wanted payment of blood money on November 14.

The letter of Philippine President Benigno Aquino that asked for more time for the Zapanta family to pay the blood money had reached Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz last October.

Zapanta was scheduled to be executed by beheading on Wednesday.

“Let us pray for our compatriot Joselito Zapanta for the extension of his life,” Vice-President Binay said.

“The family of Joselito Zapanta has asked for prayers, for his forgiveness from the family of the Sudanese national who was killed in 2009,” said Susan Ople, head of the Blas Ople Policy Centre, a non-government organisation that works for the welfare of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW).

In 2009, Zapanta was arrested for the killing of Saleh Imam Ebrahim with a hammer, over a dispute on rent payment. The Sudanese worked as an accountant of the construction firm where Zapanta was employed.

Zapanta who is from Pampanga, central Luzon, went to Saudi Arabia as a construction worker and a tile setter on October 14, 2008. He has two young children.