Blood money

ANOTHER overseas Filipino worker in Saudi Arabia has been saved from death sentence.

This is so after the mandatory “diyya” or blood money amounting to some P35 million for the release of Rogelio “Dondon” Lanuza was raised to complete the civil aspect of the royal pardon granted to him by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah.

Thanks to Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis, New York-based  Filipino-American philanthropist and lawyer Loida Nicolas-Lewis, and Prince Mohammad bin Fahd bin Abdulaziz bin Al-Saud, governor of the Eastern Province who took time off to monitor Lanuza’s case.

An architectural draftsman at Ali Hussain Alyami and sub-contractor for Aramco Saudi Arabia, Lanuza was sentenced and jailed in Saudi prison for allegedly killing, in self-defense, a Saudi national whom he accused of attempting to sexually abuse him in August 2000.

After being granted royal pardon in 2011, Lanuza’s family and friends struggled against time to raise the blood money to be given to the aggrieved Saudi family.

They immediately launched “Barya Mo, Buhay Ko.” Under Saudi law and customs, there is a period for paying the blood money, otherwise when the prescribed period lapses, the pardon is withdrawn.

Lanuza’s ordeal however is one of the hundreds of overseas Filipino workers who are languishing in jails abroad. A total of 330 OFWs who have served their sentences or have been pardoned have reportedly remained in jails in Saudi Arabia, Africa, United Arab Emirates, Syria, Malaysia, Kuwait, Iran, Hong Kong and Thailand.

If we do the math, it means that the Philippine government will soon be cash-strapped in raising the mandatory blood money for the release of the poor OFWs. Blood money can be as low as P5 million, or as high as P35 million.

Under the 1995 Migrant Workers’ Act, the Department of Foreign Affairs maintains a Legal Assistance Fund to help distressed OFWs in the amount of P100 million. For 2010, only 50 percent of the fund had been utilized, most of the expenses went to the services of the local lawyers and interpreters.

As to date, we still have to hear the result of the Malacañang technical working group which was tasked by President Aquino to draw up the guidelines for raising and paying blood money for jailed Filipino workers abroad.

The Aquino administration cannot always rely on generous hearts and deep pockets of philanthropists. In fact, there may not always be many like Loida Nicolas-Lewis in this world.

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