Posted by: tigergrassroots | July 22, 2011

Labor group to PHL govt: Save OFWs’ lives with blood money

A non-government organization is urging the Office of the President to save the lives of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who are facing executions by assisting them with “blood money.”

In a statement issued Friday, the Blas F. Ople Policy Center is asking the government “to set guidelines for future cases but to act immediately on the pending ones. Time is of the essence if we intend to save the lives of these OFWs.”

Malacañang on Thursday said the Philippine government will not solely rely on giving blood money to save Filipinos from executions abroad. It said it will look for other ways not to drain public funds.

Under the Islamic law, the punishment for a crime committed is equal to the crime itself. However, considering the priceless value of a human life, the Islamic law allows for the payment of “diyyah” or blood money to aggrieved families.

As of March 2011, 15 Filipinos are on death row in Saudi Arabia, two in Kuwait, and one in China. Militant group Migrante said there are more.

Over 8 million OFWs are deployed worldwide, some 1.8 million of whom are in Saudi Arabia alone.

The Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) assessment to use government funds as blood money is “not going to be sustainable in the long term,” according to presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda.

Susan Ople, president of the policy center, however said “sustainability” is a word seldom used in relation to critical cases involving distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

“I find it regretful that the [Aquino administration] raised the issue of sustainability when the OFW Legal Assistance Fund is clearly underutilized,” she said.

Last year, the DFA got P15 million from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office for the payment of blood money in order to save three Filipinos from execution in Saudi Arabia.

Under the law, government should set aside P130 million in the OFW Legal Assistance Fund. However, only P30 million was allocated in the 2011 budget.

“[D]owngrading the urgency… would be detrimental not only to OFWs’ cases but also to the credibility of the Philippine government, and by extension, the image and reputation of the Philippines,” Ople said.

Pinoys on death row

In the case of Junard Langamin, who was convicted of killing a fellow Filipino in a fight aboard a ship docked near Saudi Arabia, the blood money was allegedly set at P5 million.

The Blas F. Ople Policy Center said the court will rule on his case in 2012. This means that that Langamin has only a year to go in presenting the blood money to the aggrieved family and in obtaining a letter of forgiveness to show to the court.

In the case of Dondon Lanuza, now is the first time in 10 years that the aggrieved family has shown willingness to discuss compensation in exchange for extinguishing the crime, it said.

“The Lanuza family is concerned that unless the government steps in to help, this rare opening for reconciliation and forgiveness may soon be closed,” the policy center said. – VVP, GMA News


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