Migrante asks Duterte to seek clemency for OFWs on death row
MANILA, Philippines – The global network of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) Migrante International urged Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to try to "save the lives of all overseas Filipino workers on death row" by seeking clemency for them.
On Wednesday, April 12, Migrante launched a social media campaign called "#ClemencyPH" to raise awareness and drum up online support for the grant of executive clemency to all overseas Filipino workers sentenced to death.
"This is a proposal to the President. If he is really serious in saving the lives of Filipinos on death row. Sana aside from mapagulong ang legal cases at apela para sa kanila, ultimately, sana ay executive clemency ang iga-grant to save them," Migrante spokesperson Arman Hernando said in a phone interview with Rappler.
(Aside from making sure their legal cases and appeals move forward, we are hoping that ultimately they are granted executive clemency to save them.)
Duterte arrived in Saudi Arabia on Monday evening, April 10 (Riyadh time), for a two-day state visit that aims to boost ties between the two countries. Shortly before his departure, the Philippine president promised to bring home some of the OFWs in the Middle East who are on death row.
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella, however, clarified on Tuesday, Aprill 11, that "there is no place for us to be asking for clemency at this stage" because the process has not reached the level of Saudi Arabia's King Salman.
The launch of the social media campaign also comes in anticipation of the ruling by the Court of Appeals of the Al Ain Judicial Court on whether it will uphold the death sentence of overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Jennifer Dalquez.
Dalquez, who is from General Santos City, was imprisoned in December 2014 and was sentenced to death in May 2015. She was convicted of murdering her male employer. She claims, however, that her employer tried to rape her at knifepoint and that she accidentally killed him while defending herself.
"In line with the Holy Week and in the spirt of asking for mercy and compassion, we are hoping to call on the Philippine president to urge the host government and their executive counterpart to show mercy and compassion for the Filipinos on death row," Hernando said in a mix of Engish and Filipino.
The campaign was also launched ahead of the second anniversary of Mary Jane Veloso's temporary reprieve on April 29.
In 2010, Indonesia sentenced Veloso to death on charges of drug smuggling. Her execution was delayed in 2015 due to a "last-minute plea" from the Philippine government.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Court of Appeals recently issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the scheduled deposition of Mary Jane Veloso in Indonesia. Mary Jane’s lawyers filed a motion for reconsideration before the Philippine Court of Appeals on Monday, April 10, to lift the TRO. Mary Jane is supposed to deliver her deposition on April 27.
Hernando emphasized that the campaign is especially targeted at the OFWs on death row who are either innocent or were not granted due process.
"This campaign is especially for the innocent like Mary Jane Veloso and those who were not given proper legal assistance by the previous administration like Jennifer Dalquez who only invoked self defense," Hernando added.
The Migrante spokesperson also criticized former president Benigno Aquino III for supposedly failing to provide legal support for OFWs who went to trial under his administration.
According to Migrante, the first OFW executed under the Duterte administration, Jakatia Pawa, had a strong case to prove her innocence but was supposedly deprived of legal assistance by the previous administration.
"Jennifer and Mary Jane’s cases attest to the need for active government intervention in saving the lives of innocent OFWs on death row,” Hernando added.
There are currently 81 OFWs on death row, according to latest data from the Department of Foreign Affairs. Of this figure, 31 Filipinos face the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy that implements a strict version of Islam's Sharia law.
Migrante called on families and supporters of OFWs on death row to come forward to collectively appeal to President Duterte to seek clemency for their loved ones.
“Clemency for all OFWs on death row” will also be one of the main calls of Migrante International in the upcoming Labor Day rally on May 1. – Rappler.com