Villar seeks probe into P23-M blood money raised for OFW

Mara Cepeda
Villar seeks probe into P23-M blood money raised for OFW
(UPDATED) Senator Cynthia Villar asks: should Joselito Zapanta's family be given the amount that government raised in the attempt to save his life in Saudi Arabia?

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Senator Cynthia Villar filed a resolution to determine the status of the P23-million blood money that the government raised in an attempt to save the life of overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Joselito Zapanta, who was eventually executed in Saudi Arabia.

Maybe before we end Congress this Wednesday, I will file a resolution to clarify kung ano ang status ng blood money. Para kahit tapos na ang Kongreso, we can still investigate. Para lang makita natin kung saan dinadala at kung saan dapat dalhin para magkaroon tayo ng policy on how we spend the blood money,” Villar said on Monday, February 1.

(Maybe before we adjourn Congress this Wednesday, I will file a resolution to clarify the status of the blood money. I plan to do this so that even though Congress’ session ends, we can still investigate. We want to know where bloody money should go if not used and we also want to have a policy on how we spend the blood money.)

Villar filed Senate Resolution 1727 on Tuesday, February 2.

Zapanta was executed by the Saudi Arabian government in December 2015 over the murder and robbery of his Sudanese landlord 6 years ago.

His execution date was pushed back several times as his family attempted to raise 4 million Saudi Arabia Riyals (SAR) or about P50.86 million in blood money, which was needed to produce a tanazul or an affidavit of forgiveness that would have stopped the execution.

However, the Zapanta family – with help from the government, non-governmental organizations, and private individuals – was able to raise only about 1.8 million SAR or P23 million.

Mag-i-inquiry sa Senado. Where is the blood money and how do we spend the blood money sa case na ganito na nagraise ng blood money for a certain OFW at hindi naman nakumpleto [at] namatay din ang OFW? What do we do with the money? Kaya nga tayo magiinquiry para gumawa tayo ng policy with regards to that,” said Villar.

(There will be a Senate inquiry. Where is the blood money and how do we spend the blood money in cases like this when not enough blood money was raised and the OFW was executed anyway? What do we do with the money? That’s why we want to have an inquiry to make a police with regard to that.)

Villar said she also plans to file the resolution to determine what happened with the committee that President Benigno Aquino III formed in 2014 to look into blood money cases involving OFWs.

The said committee consists of the Vice President, the Executive Secretary, the secretaries of justice, foreign affairs, budget and management, health, labor and employment, andsocial welfare and development.

What to do with the blood money?

If it were up to Villar, she wants all of the blood money raised to be given to the Zapanta family, especially because the executed OFW left behind two children. 

The senator said, however, that those who made contributions should be asked what they want to do with the money raised. 

Kung masyadong malaki sa tingin nila para ibigay lahat sa pamilya, i-determine kung ilang percentage ang para sa pamilya tapos the rest would be there as a fund in case mangailangan ng blood money para may pagsimulan na. Baka iyon ang puwedeng maging simula ng pondo para sa blood money,” said Villar.

(If giving all of the money to the family is too much, then we should determine the percentage that should be allotted for the family while the rest should go to a fund in case another OFW needs blood money. Maybe by doing that, we can start having a special blood money fund.)

Villar provided livelihood assistance to Zapanta’s parents, Jesus and Mona, as well as repatriated OFW Susan Asis at the Senate on Monday. 

In attendance during the event was Susan “Toots” Ople, OFW advocate and head of the Blas F Ople Policy Center and Training Institute. Ople said the blood money meant for Zapanta is currently with the Philippine embassy in Riyadh.

Zapanta’s mother previously said she no longer cared about the blood money because her son was already dead. (VLOG: PH gov’t exhausted all means to save Joselito Zapanta – Binay)

Kung mabubuhay lang ‘yung anak ko, wala akong pakialam dun sa pera na ‘yun. Kunin ‘nyo na lahat basta mabuhay ang anak ko. Mas mahalaga sa ‘kin ‘yung anak ko,” said an emotional Mona, who was visited by Vice President Jejomar Binay on January 5. 

(I don’t care about that money. You can get everything, just bring my son back to life. My son is more important to me.) 

Binay, former presidential adviser on OFW affairs, said the government exhausted all means to save Zapanta’s life. – Rappler.com

*1 SAR = P12.72

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.