Pampanga governor launches fund drive for doomed Filipino in Saudi
Philippine Daily Inquirer
BACOLOR, Pampanga—At the request of a father who wants his condemned son to be spared from death in a Saudi Arabian prison, Gov. Lilia Pineda is leading a campaign to pool donations to raise part of the P44-million blood money demanded by a Sudanese family for the death of their kin.
Pineda is launching the fundraising drive with the Pampanga Mayors’ League Friday at the provincial capitol to raise the blood money that could spare the life of Joselito Zapanta, who was convicted of killing Saleh Imam Ibrahim in 2009.
“This is our response to Tatang Susing’s appeal,” Pineda said by telephone, referring to Jesus Zapanta, father of Joselito.
The money will be given in exchange for the forgiveness from the family of the victim, said Vice President Jejomar Binay, also presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers’ concerns, through his spokesperson Joey Salgado.
Pineda said the provincial government was turning to the kindness of individuals and groups after the Commission on Audit advised her against using the P3 million from the capitol’s social welfare fund as blood money.
“The act of killing is bad and we are not condoning this. But there is room for forgiveness, and we are praying a miracle can still happen,” Pineda told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
The Saudi government has extended the date of execution of Joselito by four more months, giving his family more time to raise the blood money.
Interviewed in his house here, Jesus, 56, said his 32-year-old son, the eldest in a brood of three, did not have money when the Sudanese came to collect rent.
Seeking better life
“He and his nine Filipino companions had not been paid their [salaries] for months. Lito was worried. He was badly beaten up so he fought back,” the father said.
Joselito left for Saudi Arabia in 2008, taking a job as a tile setter.
“He wants a better life so he left,” said
Jesus, who worked in Saudi Arabia for over 20 years.
He said the family had mortgaged their house in Pandacaqui resettlement in Mexico town for Joselito’s travel expenses.
Joselito, however, ended up spending more than two years in jail, with the Philippine Embassy able to delay the death sentence originally set on April 14, 2009, he said.
Joselito’s mother, Mona, and sister, Rose May, visited him on Wednesday night and reported that Joselito was “trying to be fine and seeking a miracle.”
“I appeal to our fellow Kapampangan and Filipinos to extend their open hands to my son. He needs to live for his family. He deserves another chance,” said Zapanta.
Binay said that while the extension period was nonextendable anymore, the blood money could be reduced further.
In October, President Aquino appealed to Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, through a letter, to intercede to defer the death penalty on Zapanta. Last week, Binay made the same appeal. Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon