MANILA, Philippines - Instead of the usual Christmas message by government officials, Vice President Jejomar Binay made use of this platform to pool donations for the P44-million blood money of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) on death row in Saudi Arabia.
“Our generosity especially during this season of sharing will go a long way in saving this young man’s life,” Binay said of Joselito Zapanta.
“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 added.
He said the P44 million blood money remains a “substantial amount” even as “we welcome the reduction and the additional time within which to raise the amount.”
Zapanta went to Saudi Arabia in 2007 to work as a tile setter. Two years later, he killed his Sudanese landlord after an altercation.
The Saudi court had affirmed his sentence of death by beheading. The family of his victim also demanded the equivalent of P50 million to secure their forgiveness.
He was scheduled for execution last November but diplomatic efforts led to the lowering of the amount to P44 million and a four-month stay in the execution.
The Philippine government has already coughed up P4 million, the standard amount allotted for blood money cases that qualify for government assistance.
Binay said officers of the Philippine Embassy and the Department of Foreign Affairs who have met and spoken to Zapanta “attest that he is a changed man who has repeatedly sought the forgiveness of the aggrieved family and that of his own.”
He said a “Good Samaritan” has already donated P1 million. A Christmas party organized by the Blas F. Ople Center, meanwhile, also raised money for Zapanta.
Binay also asked Filipinos to pray for the “kababayans” abroad, especially those who will spend Christmas away from their loved ones. “May the Lord bless them and their families and always keep them safe.”