Manila: Vice-President Jejomar Binay has been appointed to a group that aims to raise blood money for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who are languishing on death row in prisons in the Middle East, a spokesman said.
Also appointed as members of the body were Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Labour Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad, and Health Secretary Enrique Ona, a statement from the president’s office said.
The group have been given one month to give a report on the number of OFWs on death row in the Middle East.
Last month, Binay said that President Aquino had promised to give a “substantial amount of money” so that the Philippine government and private citizens could raise a total of four million Saudi riyals (Php48 million, Dh3.92 million) for blood money that was demanded by the family of Sudanese national Imam Ebrahim, who was killed by OFW Joselito Zapanta in 2009.
Zapanta killed his Sudanese landlord following an argument over rental payment.
“The Philippine government is doing everything to save the life of Joselito Zapanta,” said Binay, who also heads the presidential office on OFW concerns. “The paperwork is moving, there’s still a process to be followed.”
Binay added that the Philippine government will also negotiate for a lower amount for blood money but did not give details.
Noting that Zapanta’s execution date has not yet been set, outgoing spokesman of the foreign affairs department Raul Hernandez said: “The implementation of his death sentence has been held in abeyance pending the ongoing negotiations.”
Despite the help of private groups, the Philippine government has not yet raised the blood-money demanded by the family of the aggrieved party. Initially the Sudanese family demanded five million Saudi riyals.
“The president stressed the need for a clear policy on blood money,” said spokesman Edwin Lacierda. “We know for a fact that our overseas Filipino workers have contributed a lot to our country and there are situations where... for one reason or another, a crime is committed and blood money is required.”
Zapanta was asked to deliver the funds on November 12, 2012. But the deadline was extended to March 12, 2013, and later to November 3, 2013. No other deadline has been set since last year.
There are 10 million OFWs posted worldwide and they represent 10 per cent of the 100 million Philippines population.
The OFWs have been remitting up to $21 million (Dh77 million) to their relatives in the Philippines every year, which helps fuel the country’s consumer-led economy.