Binay appeals for help to raise blood money for OFW in Saudi

VICE President Jejomar C. Binay has appealed for donations to a fund drive to raise P44 million for Joselito Zapanta, an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) who was given until March next year to raise the blood money to save him from execution in Saudi Arabia.

“Our generosity especially during this season of sharing will go a long way in saving this young man’s life,” the Vice President said in his Christmas Message.

“As we celebrate the yuletide season, may we remember the true spirit of Christmas and share the love, hope, goodwill, and peace to everyone,” he said.

The Vice President said a “Good Samaritan” has donated P1 million to the fund, while OFW families in a Christmas party organized by the Blas F. Ople Center pooled their money to help raise the blood money. He also said the provincial government of Pampanga has embarked on a similar fund drive for Zapanta, who hails from Bacolor, Pampanga.

The Vice President also asked for prayers for all OFWs, especially those who will spend Christmas away from their loved ones.

“May the Lord bless them and their families and always keep them safe,” he said.

In making his appeal for Zapanta, the Vice President said the family of the 33-year old OFW faces the biggest challenge of their lives, which is to raise the P44 million in four months to save their son from execution.

“Joselito’s mother is a 50-year old housewife with her own health problems while his father is a part-time carpenter whose age makes it difficult for him to compete for scarce jobs,” he said.

The Philippine government has deposited in Saudi Arabia the equivalent of P 4 million, the standard amount allotted for blood money cases that qualify for government assistance.

“A few days ago, a kindhearted private individual donated P 1 million that was immediately deposited in a Saudi bank account opened by the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh precisely for this purpose. The provincial government of Pampanga has also embarked on a fund-raising campaign for their cabalen. Recently, 400 OFW families in a Christmas party organized by the Blas F. Ople Center, a non-governmental organization, donated P7,900 to the Save Zapanta fund,” he said.

Zapanta went to Saudi Arabia in 2007 to work as a tile setter. Two years later, he killed his Sudanese landlord after an altercation.

Binay said officers of the Philippine Embassy and the Department of Foreign Affairs who have met and spoken to Joselito “attest that he is a changed man who has repeatedly sought the forgiveness of the aggrieved family and that of his own.”

The Saudi court had affirmed his sentence of death by beheading and the family of his victims demanded the equivalent of P50 million to secure their forgiveness. He was scheduled for execution last November but efforts by President Aquino, the Vice President and the Philippine Embassy led to the lowering of the amount to P44 million and a four-month stay of execution.

“While we welcome the reduction and the additional time within which to raise the amount, we must admit it is still a substantial amount,” he said.

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