Jailed OFW in Riyadh needs blood money to save life

A special report for the CBCP News Service

ANTIPOLO CITY, May 30, 2010—A 30-year old Filipino migrant worker in Saudi is in need of blood money in order to save his life.

Death convict in Riyadh, Joselito Zapanta. (Photo courtesy of Migrante International - Manila)

Joselito Zapanta, a Kapampangan, and a father of two little kids, was sentenced to death last April 14 for murdering his Sudanese landlord. He was also accused of theft. He is now staying at the Malaiz Central Jail in the Saudi capital of Jeddah.

In a statement sent to media by Migrante chair Garry Martinez he said that the family is now in dire need to come up with the necessary amount to save the head of their kin.

Migrante and the Zapanta family are now demanding for a dialogue with the Department of Foreign Affairs in order to “clarify” the latter’s plan about the fate of the OFW especially that they have received news that the last day of filing of appeal before the Saudi Appellate Court was on May 10.

“They must reveal their plans. It is matter of life and death for Joselito,” Martinez said in a message sent to this reporter.

He said that the family of Joselito want to participate on the efforts of saving the life of their kin.

In a statement, Zapanta’s father Jesus said that they doubt the capability of the Macapagal-Arroyo government, whose term is about to end June 30th, of helping his son escape his death.

“Hindi kami papayag na buong-buong ipagkatiwala ang buhay ng aking anak sa ating pamahalaan. Hindi na kami papayag na lagi na lang paghintayin at paasahin sa mga balita na madalang pa sa patak ng ulan kung dumating. Gusto naming maging aktibong kalahok, gusto naming matiyak na magagawa ang lahat para mailigtas ang buhay ng aking anak,” Mang Jesus stated.

The saga of Joselito’s plight

Just like any other parent and husband, Joselito had decided to leave the country to work abroad to provide his family food, clothing, shelter and other necessities .

In a fact sheet provided by the Migrante’s Migrants’ Assistance Center, it says that it was on October 14, 2008 he left Manila to Riyadh to work as a tile setter. It was the Al-Ahram International Group Services Inc., with offices at Rms. 1, 2, 302 & 106, Jalandoni Bldg., 1444 Mabini Street, in Ermita, Manila that helped him to land a job there.

However, fate seems to be cruel to Joselito.

Not receiving his salary for six months, he had decided to run away from his previous employer and tried applying for other jobs. Luckily, he was helped by his fellow Filipinos to get part-time jobs in order to sustain his living and to send a little money to his family in Mexico, Pampanga.

On May 25, 2009 Joselito had been able to communicate with his family telling that to wait for his remittance to come. That was the last time that they heard from Joselito.

The fact sheet also stated that the family had tried to contact Joselito via his mobile phone but the phone was turned off.

It was on June that they have received the news that Joselito was in jail due to accusations of murdering his Sudanese landlord. It was an unidentified friend of Joselito who called his family in Pampanga, breaking the news of Joselito’s plight.

Based on the family’s own account of their conversation with Joselito’s pal, he told them that Joselito accidentally killed the Sudanese because of self-defense. Joselito’s friend said that it was the Sudanese who had first beaten Joselito to death because of the refusal of the latter to give the payment for his rent, since it was not due yet.

Back and forth

Upon receiving the information, the family immediately went to the local DFA office in Clark Field, Pampanga but they were referred to the State agency’s office in Pasay City.

But the DFA headquarters told them to go back to the Clark Field office for their case was filed there. However, the Clark office again told them to go back to the national headquarters.

It was only on July 2009 when the family had been able to speak with Atty. Milet Flores of the DFA main office. The lawyer told them that she is the one who will be handling the case of Zapanta.

In order to be enlightened with Joselito’s case, the family had demanded Flores to provide them copies of the police report from Jeddah but the latter told them that it was impossible for her to provide the documents that time.

Nevertheless, Flores had assured the family that Joselito will be absolved on the case for there are many witnesses to attest that Joselito did not plan the killing of the Sudanese, but he accidentally killed him as self-defense. That was the last time that the family had a view of their Joselito’s case.

DFA failed to inform family

Months had passed and there were no updates from the DFA.

“From then on, there are no words from the DFA. There are no letters from Flores, no nothing. This is notwithstanding her promise that if there are any developments, she will be immediately writing the family. This prompted Joselito and his family to seek the help of Migrante,” Martinez told this reporter.

It was Joselito himself who had called Migrante Mid-East, via John Leonard Monterona—Migrante’s coordinator there—to inform them about his case. That was on March 10, 2010.

“I immediately informed the [Philippine] Embassy officials here to help Joselito,” says Monterona in an email.

Five days after, it was the family who communicated with the Migrante National Office in Quezon City.

Martinez told this reporter that after the documentation process, he and his staff, together with the family had immediately went to the DFA’s Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs (OUMWA) to personally inquire about the developments of Joselito’s case as well as to provide them the copies of the reports from the Saudi Police.

“But the DFA has declined our request,” Martinez said.

Late reply, slow actions

When Migrante had already mediating for the case, then the office of Flores finally had a contact with the family.

“It was on March 22, the family had been able to have an audience with Atty. Flores. Again, Atty. Flores had assured them that DFA will be providing US$10,000, as Joselito’s legal defense fund. But according to Joselito himself, on the days of his hearing, there were no lawyers provided. Only two interpreters were provided to Joselito,” Martinez said.

On April 14, the death sentence against Joselito was released by the Court of First Instance, giving the accused until May 1st to appeal his case.

On April 15, Joselito’s family rushed to the DFA to ask for the formal report over the court’s decision; the DFA, once again, had declined the request. However, someone in the OUMWA told the family that the May 1st due date for appeal is not true and that they must just return to Clark field office to get the updates.

On the next day, the DFA had issued a statement refuting Joselito’s claim that he was not provided a lawyer.

Again, there were no words from the DFA until May 12th, when Joselito’s father personally sought an audience with OUMWA chief Esteban Conejos, who assured the old man that they will forward the information to the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh. But they must look first for the address and contact information of murdered Sudanese.

It was only then when the older Zapanta received information from his sister in Hawaii, telling him that her nephew was heavily beaten by co-prisoners that had caused him to skip his meals because of aching body.

On May 19 Maurice Tiempo from the DFA office called Jesus Zapanta and told him that they don’t have any update yet from the last April 29 appeal. (CBCPNews.com)