MANILA, Philippines – The fate of Jennifer Dalquez, an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) on death row in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), lies in the hands of her victim's children.
According to officials from the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi, the Court of Appeals in Al Ain Judicial Court decided to postpone its ruling on Dalquez's case, originally set for February 27, to March 27.
The court has called on the two children of Dalquez's deceased employer to attend the March 27 hearing, where they will be asked to swear 50 times in the name of Allah before the court that "Jennifer Dalquez is the only person, and no other person, [who] killed their father.”
"If this happens, the Court of Appeals will uphold the decision (death sentence) of the Court of First Instance. But if the children will refuse to swear, then the dia or blood money shall apply," Vice Consul Rowena Daquipil of the Philippine Embassy in UAE told The Filipino Times.
Dalquez, who is from General Santos City, was imprisoned in December 2014, after being convicted of murdering her male employer.
The Al Ain Court of First Instance sentenced her to death on May 20, 2015.
Dalquez said her employer tried to rape her at knifepoint and she accidentally killed him while defending herself.
"Napatay ko po ang aking among pulis dahil tinangka niya po akong gahasain at patayin. Sinunog po niya ako....Pinalo ng bote sa mukha, sa bandang taas ng mata. Noong tinangka niya po akong saksakin, nakaiwas po ako at sa awa ng Diyos ay naagaw ko ang kutsilyo sa kanya," she said.
(I accidentally killed my employer,a policeman, because he tried to rape and kill me. He burned me....Hit my face with a bottle, just above my eye. When he tried to stab me, I was able to dodge and take the knife from him.)
Dalquez and her family appealed to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to help the OFW escape death row on Monday, February 27,
"Nagmamakaawa po ako sa mahal nating pangulo na tulungan niya po ako na makauwi na sa bansa natin. Kayo lang po ang aking pag-asa na makalabas po dito sa kulungan," Dalquez said in an audio message sent to the media by Migrante International.
(I am pleading to our beloved president to please help me get home to our country. You are my only hope in getting out of jail.)
Dalquez flew to the UAE in December 2012 and initially worked as a domestic helper. She claimed that her first employer then also tried to rape her.
She later on worked as a cashier in a restaurant and then as a doctor's assistant. While working as an assistant, Dalquez was cleaning for different households as a part-time job. That's when she met her last employer.
The Philippine government provided Dalquez with a lawyer and filed an appeal for her case. In June 2015, then Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz visited her in prison to check on her and promised to provide assistance to her family.
Responding to Dalquez's request, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) brought her parents to the UAE so they could visit her and attend a court hearing.
Migrante claimed the Philippine embassy told Dalquez's family not to approach Migrante for assistance but the group vowed that it "will not stop until Jennifer is acquitted."
"We have enough reasons to be alarmed. Like the previous regimes, the current administration is also guilty of criminal neglect as seen in its handling of the Jakatia Pawa case," it said.
Pawa was an OFW executed in Kuwait earlier this year. He claimed innocence in the murder of her Kuwaiti employer's 22-year-old daughter.
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), through Churches Witnessing with Migrants, called for prayers for Dalquez to be spared from execution.
"We take the side of the vulnerable. Dalquez’s move was an act of self-defense. May her death sentence be commuted," the NCCP said in a statement.
The NCCP also called on the government to do more to protect OFWs, especially women.
"Unless measures are taken to protect them, their vulnerability to abuse remains high. We will not grow tired in calling attention to the call for national industrialization among others as a way of keeping our people home," they said. – With reports from Jojo Dass of The Filipino Times/Rappler.com