Brother of slain OFW Jullebee Ranara says Kuwaiti law too lenient on killer

Michelle Abad

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Brother of slain OFW Jullebee Ranara says Kuwaiti law too lenient on killer

FUNERAL. Family, relatives and friends gather at the Golden Haven Memorial Park in Las Piñas to pay their final respect to Jullebee Ranara as she is laid to rest on February 5, 2023.


The appellate court in Kuwait upholds the 16-year prison sentence for the teenager who killed Ranara, a Filipino domestic worker

MANILA, Philippines – After the Kuwaiti appellate court upheld the 16-year prison sentence of the teenager who killed overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Jullebee Ranara, her family maintained that punishment of the minor was not enough.

The appellate court upheld the guilty verdict on the young man who brutally killed domestic worker Ranara, whose burnt remains were found in the Kuwaiti desert in January 2023. The court imposed on the teen, who was 17 years old at the time of the crime, 15 years of imprisonment for murder, and an additional year for driving without a license, the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) announced on Wednesday, February 21.

In an interview with Rappler on Thursday, February 22, Ranara’s brother Emor Reyes said that the family felt mixed emotions when hearing the upheld guilty verdict.

[Masaya] kasi alam mo ‘yun, kahit papaano mayroong justice na nangyari. Malungkot, siyempre, ganoon ‘yung nangyari sa ate ko (Happy because we were able to get some justice one way or another, but sad, of course, because my sister’s life turned out that way),” he said.

Citing the legal team for Ranara’s case, DMW Officer-in-Charge Hans Cacdac said that the 15-year sentence was the maximum penalty a minor could get for murder under Kuwaiti law. In September, when the court of first instance handed down the guilty verdict, Ranara’s father said that they thought it was too light of a sentence.

With the sentence upheld, Reyes still felt the same as before. He said that the law should be amended.

Gusto pa rin namin mabago ‘yun, katulad noong unang appeal, ang sabi ko sa kanila, ‘yun ang suggest ko na baka puwede pang mapataas. Kasi sobrang baba eh. So parang not fair – na 16 [years]? Lalabas lang siya ng 30 plus, ganoon. Ang bata niya pa. Tapos ang ate ko, patay na,” he said.

(We still want the law to be changed, just like during the first appeal, I told them and suggested that maybe the penalty could be higher, because it’s way too low. It’s not fair – just 16 years? He will go free when he’s in his 30s. He is so young, while my sister is dead.)

The DMW and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration held a Zoom call with Ranara’s family on Wednesday to discuss the upheld verdict and next steps. Cacdac said that the government assured the family they would help with filing the civil action for damages, free of charge.

“This is a step towards the complete attainment of justice, because there is still the civil action for damages to be filed,” he told reporters on Thursday.

The perpetrator’s family still has an option to appeal the sentence with the Court of Cassation, but Cacdac said they had yet to know if the family will appeal again.

A year without Jullebee

Reyes, 29, said that even if he and his older sister came from a pack of eight siblings, he was closest to her. He was the only sibling present in the Wednesday Zoom call.

Ranara once funded his education and made it possible for him to graduate high school. He confided in her about everything he went through in life.

Pinipilit namin na kayanin kahit sobrang sakit. Nandiyan na ‘yan eh, so kahit naman gusto naming bumalik, wala naman na kaming magawa. So ang tanging gagawin na lang namin is suportahan yung mga naiwan niya, yung obligasyon niya dito, kailangan namin ituloy,” he said.

(We have been forcing ourselves to carry on even though it’s still so painful. It already happened, so even if we want to go back in time, we can’t. So all we can do is support the things she left behind, her obligations, we need to keep taking care of them.)

If it were up to the family, justice would have meant an eye for an eye.

Galing na sa papa ko, ayaw naming hilingin ‘to, pero sa ginawa niya… an eye for an eye (Just like what my father said, and we don’t want to ask for this, but based on what he did… an eye for an eye),” he said.

Ranara’s brutal killing triggered the Philippines to halt deployment of first-time domestic workers heading to Kuwait beginning February 2023. Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo De Vega earlier said that one of the conditions for the lifting of the partial ban was justice for Ranara.

On Thursday, Cacdac did not say whether the latest case development would affect the ban, only that labor diplomacy talks would continue. – Rappler.com

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers the rights of women and children, migrant Filipinos, and labor.