MANILA - ACTS OFW Party-list Rep. Aniceto John Bertiz blamed the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for overseas Filipino worker Jakatia Pawa's execution in Kuwait.
The lawmaker said the DFA could not even inform her family directly as they found out about her execution from the media.
"The death of Jakatia was made more painful by the fact that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Philippine Embassy to Kuwait learned the day before (January 24) of the impending execution but neglected to inform the family of Jakatia,” said Bertiz during a press conference on Thursday morning.
It was Pawa who called up her brother, Lt. Col. Gary Pawa, on Wednesday morning to inform him about her execution supposedly on Thursday. However, it was later in the day when media got word that the execution pushed through on Wednesday afternoon, Manila Time.
“It seems that DFA officials cannot be bothered to call and inform the family that they have already lost their loved one," Bertiz said.
But Col. Pawa said that right after his sister's call, someone from the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs called him up to relay the news.
"Right after, tumawag si Mr. Omar na taga OUMWA, ininform kami na alam na ba daw namin na si Jakatia bibitayin. Si Jakatia muna naunang tumawag," Col. Pawa said.
DFA spokesperson, Assistant Secretary Charles Jose on Wednesday said things happened simultaneously.
“At the same time the embassy was informed, OFW Pawa was also given a chance to call her family. She was given a cellphone by prison authorities,” said Jose.
For his part, Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Rene Villa said they were only given 18-hours notification.
“Natanggap namin yung tawag 12 noon tapos inireport agad namin sa DFA. Napakaigsi ng ibinigay nilang notice. Ganun po talaga dito ang patakaran,” Villa said.
Bertiz also said the government could have interceded with the new Kuwait ambassador months ago.
"Nakakalungkot lang may magagawa pa sana two months ago nag courtesy call ang bagong ambassador ng Kuwait sa president. Kung ginagawa ng taga DFA ang kanilang trabaho, dapat yung folder na iaabot sa ambassador ng presidente nandoon yung nasa death row at alamin muna natin,” he said.
Bertiz maintained Pawa was the victim of a frame-up. Pawa was executed for the death of her ward.
"Kung totoo nga na pinaninindigan ni Jakatia nahuli ng magulang na nakikipag sex itong babae na ito sa ibang lalaki wherein probably she already has an arranged marriage. Alam naman natin sa Saudi Arabia na ang kasal doon, di naman nagkikita ang babae at lalaki…ikakasal na lang sila ..It is a very shameful act sa pamilya since prominent at mayaman yung kanilang pamilya. Pinatay na lang yung anak. Ibinintang dito kay Jakatia. Kaya humihingi tayo ng records ano naitulong ng embahada sa Kuwait," he said.
Bertiz explained there are other OFWs who have suffered maltreatment in Kuwait.
"Hindi lang si Jakatia ang lumalabas na minamaltrato sa Kuwait. Andiyan ang plinantsa ang isang domestic worker, tumalon sa building ang isang domestic worker. Di alam kung tinulak, plinantsa ang katawan, dalawang taon na nagsa-suffer. Ilang daan pa ang minamaltrato? Alam ng DFA Kuwait is a non-compliant country. Ang DFA, DOLE, POEA nagce-certify kung isang bansa ay safe na puntahan ng OFW bakit ilang libo pa rin ang umaalis," he pointed out.
Bertiz and Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon both urged government to learn from the experience and look after OFWs on death row.
"We pray that the death of Jakatia will not be in vain. Her death exposed fatal flaws in our system from monitoring the plight of OFWs, to legal assistance, up to the provision of support to bereaved families,” he said.
He also added that he will call for a review of the case.
“Let us use the lessons learned from the wrongful execution of Jakatia to make sure that no innocent OFW would be put to death because our government failed to be pro-active in monitoring their situation and in providing timely assistance. Let us use the lessons here to make sure that our government agencies are doing all that they can to help the families cope with the death of their loved one,” Bertiz said.
Biazon wants government to form a special task force to track and focus on all pending cases involving OFWs in other countries.
“Baka mas maganda sa panahong ito, magimbentaryo tayo ilan ba pending cases, create a special task force na talagang naka-focus on these, wala silang ibang trabaho kung hindi tulungan ang ating mga OFWs na may hinaharap na ganitong prublema," he said.
Bertiz also wants government to review of the country's deployment policy covering Household Service Workers (HSWs) or domestic workers bound for Kuwait.
"Of the 250,000 OFWs, 158,000 are HSWs or domestic workers. Like Jakatia, they are all vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. If the Kuwaiti government cannot guarantee the safety of our workers or, in Jakatia's case, ensure that they have access to justice and fair trial, then perhaps it’s time for us to seriously consider Kuwait as a country of destination for our OFWs,” he said.
Pawa left her husband and two children to work as a domestic helper in Kuwait. She later lost her husband who was shot to death in their home province in Mindanao in 2012.
Separately, Buhay Party List Rep. Lito Atienza expressed belief that there will be more Jakatia Pawas once Congress revives the death penalty. Atienza believes that the President's plan to renew judicial executions would "emasculate" in a big way the Philippine government's efforts to redeem the lives of OFWs who are on death row abroad for ordinary offenses.
"One of the many repercussions of the return of the death penalty is that the Philippine government would be deprived of the moral high ground when it comes to our official appeals for clemency for foreign governments to spare the lives of our citizens who are facing execution," Atienza said.
"We cannot implore foreign governments to uphold universally recognized human rights, including the right to life, if we ourselves do not respect the sanctity of every human life," he said.
At least 87 Filipinos are facing the death penalty overseas, mostly in Malaysia and China, for various felonies, according to the DFA.
The top 10 foreign destinations of deployed land-land based OFWs are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Qatar, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Taiwan, Malaysia, Bahrain and Canada, according to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.