Can Noynoy Aquino Save The OFW From The Jaw of Death?

“[T]he Filipino … is worth dying for because he is the nation’s greatest
untapped resource.”
— The late Sen. Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., New York, Aug. 4, 1980

CHICAGO (jGLi) – When martyred and Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” S. Aquino, Jr. delivered a soliloquy before the Asia Society in New York in 1980, he posited himself the question: is the Filipino worth dying for?

In 1991, President Fidel V. Ramos fielded Ninoy’s question when faced by the Flor Contemplacion dilemma: Is the Filipino or Filipina worth saving for? History, however, may not be very kind to Ramos as his diplomats took their time in helping Mrs. Contemplacion.

The Ramos Department of Foreign Affairs did not even send a lawyer to help in the early defense of the case of Contemplacion, who could have escaped execution if she pleaded insanity. Diplomats only warmed up to help when the Filipino people were already up in arms against the autocratic Singapore government, which eventually carried out Conemplacion’s execution.

The reviled and maligned President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, in what I consider, her defining moment, attempted to answer Ninoy’s question, when she ordered the withdrawal in 2004 of 11 Filipino soldiers from Iraq to meet the demands of kidnappers holding a Filipino truck driver hostage, Angelo de la Cruz, ignoring warnings from Washington that the move sends the wrong signal to terrorists.

Even if Mrs. Macapagal Arroyo were convicted of graft and plunder charges she is facing, she can put on a straight face to the judge that she should be given a pass because at one time or another, she was able to save the life of an overseas Filipino worker, if not the lives of a squad of Filipino peacekeepers. If not, she can promote this mitigating circumstance if she seeks a pardon from a benevolent president, who could be elected in 2016.

PNOY IN THE SAME BOAT

Incumbent President Aquino is also facing the same dilemma: can he save many OFW’s languishing in Death Row? Will Noynoy Aquino exert every effort to save them from being decapitated? Good question.

There have been several executions among Filipino drug mules in China under the young Aquino administration. But the rage of Filipinos against China has not yet reached the Contemplacion level because when these Filipinos took the drugs from the drug syndicates for a small amount of money, they knew that they could face death penalty if caught.

But in the case of some inmates in the Death Row in Saudi Arabia, who are accused of accidental deaths or homicides (no premeditation because their victims were strangers) and are, therefore, defensible, the Aquino Administration is facing the daunting challenge of saving them from decapitations.

Take the case of Rodelio “Dondon” Celestino Lanuza, who is accused of killing a Saudi Arabian in self-defense and is imprisoned in Dammam, Eastern part of KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia).

Although Lanuza, whose father is from Naga City in the Philippines, has been forgiven by the father of the victim last year, he still could not be released because his family has so far raised only 8.5-M pesos (US$202,380) blood money out of the 3-Milion Riyal (35-M pesos or US$800,000) demanded by the surviving three children (all boys) of the victim.

Instead of the original 5-Million Riyal demanded, Lanuza’s lawyer was able to reduce the blood money to 3-M Riyal at 1-M Riyal per child/boy.

Lanuza needs to raise 26.5M pesos ($630,000) more before he could taste his freedom.

But he is running out of time. The three boys, aged 15, 18 and 21, are now of legal age. They can wait for the delivery of blood money within five years. If the boys will not get the money in 2016, they could go back to court and ask the court to carry out the beheading of Lanuza.

WHERE IS THE P.5-M BALANCE?

As in the past administration, the maximum contribution that the Philippine government could give to a single Death Row inmate was P5-million blood money. But in the case of the four Filipinos, they were decapitated because the P20-M blood money from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office came too late in the day. Aanhin pa ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo? (What good is the grass when the horse is dead? Feed it to another horse?

Yeah, but the Aquino government is being a tightwad. It is giving Lanuza’s pot only P4.5-M. Where is P.5-M balance?

If you add the P4.5-M of the Philippine government to the NGO’s contributions collected by Filipino American lawyer and philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis amounting to P3.5-M, including Attorney Lewis’ matching donation, the fund-raising is still a long ways to go.

There was a suggestion that if only each of the 285, congressmen, including 56 sectoral representatives, will re-align .002 percent of their annual “pork barrel” or Priority Development Fund of P70-M (US$1.6-M) to Lanuza’s fund, it should easily generate P39-M or P4-M too many. Or if each of the 23 senators will allocate 1% of each of their P200-M pork barrel to Lanuza’s fund, it should easily raise P46-M, or P11-M too many of the P35-M needed blood money.

Or perhaps, some Filipino millionaires like Filipino Congressman Manny Pacquiao, Messrs. Manny V. Pangilinan of PLDT or Ramon Ang of San Miguel Corporation and Philippine Air Lines and other prominent Filipinos could chip in to easily complement the balance of P26.5-M blood money.

If this will not work, perhaps, House Committee Chair Walden F. Bello of the Overseas Workers Affairs should rework the proposal of Rep. Ma. Theresa Bonoan-David to impose an additional $50 fee to “sustain the government’s emergency repatriation funds.” But this proposal was opposed by  (OFW) group Migrante-Middle East (M-ME), which described it as ill-advised because all the funds need to do is to source it from the P13-B being held in trust by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s (OWWA), “which does not have programs and welfare services for OFWs and their dependents.”

The OWWA should instead buy premium insurance policies for accidental/homicide insurance for each departing OFW. In case the OFW will be charged with homicide, the insurance policy can be a source for payment of blood money. In case the OFW dies in a traffic or some accident, the espouse or children of the OFW will become the beneficiaries from this policy.

Meanwhile, donors to Lanuza’s fund-raising may send in their donations to Metro Bank in Malolos, Bulacan with Savings Account Number: 575-3-575-01112-9 in what is called ‘BARYA NG BUHAY KO’ fund raising. Other donors may accept the “One-Million Pesos (US$23,809) Challenge Grant,” where an anonymous donor would match their donations, or log on at http://www.helpdondon.com/. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

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