11 OFWs Facing Death Penalty In Kingdom

RIYADH, 18 August 2004 — Philippine officials said yesterday 17 Filipino nationals are facing the death penalty overseas, including 11 in Saudi Arabia.

Foreign Undersecretary Jose Brillantes was quoted in Manila as saying five other OFWs were sentenced to death in Malaysia and one in the United States.

Brillantes’ count, as reported by news agencies from Manila, included 13 OFWs in Saudi Arabia’s death row, for a total of 19 worldwide.

But Ambassador Bahnarim A. Guinomla said the correct count was 11, of which seven are in the Western Region and four in the Central Region.

Vice Consul and Third Secretary Jun Israel of the Philippine Embassy identified the four in the Central Region as Rodelio Lanuza, Nonito Abuno, Sarah Demastera and Ahiya Tumpilan. He said all four were convicted of murder.

Brillantes said during a press conference in Manila that the government was making representations to the Saudi government to commute the death sentences of at least two of the Filipino nationals.

This usually involves asking the family of the victim to accept payment of diyah, or “blood money,” in exchange for forgiveness.

Brillantes visited the Kingdom several months ago to hold negotiations on behalf of the two Filipino nationals on death row and expressed optimism before he returned to the Philippines that their sentences would be commuted.

The fate of the estimated eight million Filipinos working overseas is a volatile political issue in a number of countries, including Saudi Arabia, where the monetary remittances of these workers is a major source of foreign exchange.

Last month, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo angered close allies such as the United States and Australia when she withdrew Filipino troops from Iraq to save the life of Angelo dela Cruz, a Filipino truck driver held hostage by Iraqi militants.

Dela Cruz has returned to the country where he was given a hero’s welcome. His family has also been given a house and lot and his children have been given free scholarships. They have also been assured of jobs after graduation.

There are more than 1,000 people on death row in the Philippines where kidnapping for ransom, rape, and possession of large amounts of illegal drugs are punishable by death through lethal injection.

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