Pinoy needs $1M to escape Saudi beheading

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Nov 14 2012 09:02 PM | Updated as of Nov 15 2012 04:24 PM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - A Philippine worker condemned to death in Saudi Arabia for murder has won a four-month reprieve to raise four million riyals ($1.066 million) and avoid execution by beheading, officials said on Wednesday.

Saudi authorities approved the stay after formal appeals by President Benigno Aquino and Vice President Jejomar Binay to stop the scheduled November 14 judicial execution of the condemned construction worker Joselito Zapanta.

The Philippine government is now trying to help the family raise the "blood money" that must be paid to the Sudanese victim's relatives so the death sentence is commuted, foreign department spokesman Raul Hernandez said.

"The family has been given four months to raise four million riyals," Hernandez told reporters.

Binay, who also oversees the millions of Filipinos working overseas, said the government and Zapanta's family had so far raised 400,000 riyals.

"I appeal to all our countrymen, especially the private sector, let us help in whatever way we can. Miracles can happen. Maybe we will find a way or maybe they will lower the amount (demanded)," Binay said.

Zapanta was convicted in 2010 of murdering his Sudanese landlord in 2009 over a rental dispute and was given until November 14 to raise the money for indemnity.

Saudi law allows a person to escape the death penalty if the victim's family accepts payment of "blood money".

Saudi Arabia is a major employer of Filipinos, with 1.2 million working in the kingdom as manual labourers, technicians, saleswomen and maids.

They are part of an estimated nine million Filipinos who work overseas and account for some 10 percent of the population. Their remittances are a mainstay of the economy.

The welfare of overseas workers has become a major political issue in the Philippines amid complaints of abuse and exploitation of some of them.