Philippine Daily Inquirer
Arroyo asked to save Filipina maid's life
A militant alliance of overseas Filipino workers and their families urged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to go to Kuwait again to save domestic helper May Vecina from a death sentence that was recently affirmed by the emirate's highest court.
"If it would take such a step to save her, then by all means she should go, not just to Kuwait, but to each and every country where there are OFWs on death row," Migrante International secretary-general Maita Santiago told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a phone interview.
"In fact, the government shouldn't have waited for the (Vecina's) sentence to become final before launching a full effort to save our OFWs facing execution," she added.
Last November, Arroyo went to Kuwait to personally seek clemency from Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah that he may spare the life of another domestic, Marilou Ranario, who was also sentenced to death for murdering her employer.
The emir later commuted her sentence to life imprisonment.
Santiago said the President should use her full diplomatic powers in saving OFWs as assiduously as the current administration has been promoting the country's labor export policy.
"Ms Arroyo said promoting and protecting the welfare of OFWs are one of the pillars of her foreign policy, so she should prove this now by doing all that she can to save Vecina," the Migrante leader said.
Migrante members carrying pictures of Vecina, Ranario and other OFWs in death row held a noise barrage in the group's office in the village of Claro Project 3, Quezon City on Wednesday.
They were joined by Ranario's sister Wilfreda, who mentioned that the Arroyo administration had yet to make good its promise to help Ranario's family go to Kuwait to see her.
Migrante chair Connie Bragas-Regalado relayed the group's sadness about the Kuwaiti Court of Cassation's upholding of Vecina's death sentence.
"We empathize with her family and demand that the Arroyo government truly exhaust all means to save her life. At the same time, this is another grim wake-up call regarding the very exploitative and vulnerable plight of OFWs, particularly of domestics," she said.
Regalado also called on the family to stay strong in this entire ordeal and to never stop fighting for Vecina in Kuwait.
She said the government should conduct a "genuine investigation" of how the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait address cases of abuses of domestics in the emirate.
She quoted Vecina's lawyer Faisal al-Matar as saying that Vecina complained of maltreatment by her employer before the killing. Regalado said Migrante received reports every month of "hundreds" of Filipino domestics forced to run away from their abusive employers.
Vecina, 28, was sentenced to hang for killing her employer?s youngest son Salem Sulaiman Al-Otaib on January 6 last year, as well as attempting to kill his 13-year-old brother Abdulla by slitting his throat and stabbing his 17-year-old sister Hajer.
The court ruling is final and only needs to be signed by Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah to be implemented.
Migrante's Middle East chapter said it was also preparing to launch an online petition to appeal to Ms Arroyo to "act without much ado," and to the Kuwaiti government to spare Vecina.
In a statement from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona said that despite the pronouncement from Malacañang and the foreign affairs department that they would "exhaust all legal remedies and take diplomatic initiatives" to save Vecina, Migrante members around the world would closely monitor and follow up any remedial and diplomatic actions to be undertaken by the Arroyo administration.
"We will closely keep an eye on Vecina's case and will tightly observe the actions to be undertaken by the government especially that Ms Arroyo herself promised last year to intervene on Vecina?s case and those of other 25 OFWs in death row," Monterona added.
Citing government data, Migrante counted 73,000 OFWs in Kuwait, with 60,000 of them working as domestic workers earning less than US$200 monthly.
According to the group, more than 25 Filipino workers are on death row around the world while five OFWs have been beheaded overseas during the term of the Arroyo government.