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Weakening our stand

ANOTHER overseas Filipino worker in the United Arab Emirates is fighting to save her life. Jennifer Dalquez of General Santos City was jailed in December 2014; she was convicted of murdering her male employer. She was sentenced to death five months later.

Dalquez’s defense said she accidentally killed her employer while she was thwarting his rape attempt. She narrated that he had tried to burn her, hit her with a bottle on the face, and tried to stab her. She was then able to take the knife from him.

The final hearing for the appeal had been scheduled for February 27 but was moved to March 27.

This is what is expected to happen: the children of the employer will be asked to swear, 50 times, before the court and in the name of Allah, that Dalquez was the only one who could have killed their father. If the children are able to do this, the court will uphold the sentence. If not, Dalquez will be made to pay blood money.

The Department of Foreign Affairs says it is doing everything to save the life of Dalquez. The UAE Supreme Court will have the final say regardless of what happens in the appeal, says Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose.

The Philippine government, he says, has hired a lawyer to be by Dalquez’s side every step of the way. The embassy has also reached out to the employer’s family to ask if they would accept blood money; thus far, they have refused. It has facilitated her parents’ visit and has given financial assistance to the family.

Such government efforts have proven ineffective, as seen in the case of Zamboanga Sibugay’s Jakatia Pawa, 44, convicted of murdering her employer’s daughter despite the failure of DNA evidence to support this claim. This was in 2007. In 2010, then-Vice President Noli de Castro went to Kuwait to appeal for her life.

Pawa was hanged this year, anyway, on January 25.

Of course there is Mary Jane Veloso, who was spared from the firing squad in Indonesia in 2015. Convicted of drug trafficking, Veloso insisted she had been fooled by someone she trusted into carrying the drugs. We did succeed in staying her execution at the last minute, but her legal battles continue. She may still be executed.

We do not have all the information to conclude whether the Philippine government has been doing enough to save these Filipinos on death row in other countries. What we know is that we try to change the minds of those countries, by continuing to assert the migrants’ innocence, offering new evidence when still possible, and pleading with officials not to impose the capital punishment.

Alas, we know, too, that whatever credibility we might have had in the past in arguing against putting people to death now stands eroded, with our own government’s push for the restoration of the death penalty here albeit only for drug-related crimes. How can we argue any longer that executions hardly serve a purpose other than perpetuate injustice, and how dare we ask to spare our people from this punishment when we wish to do so here in our own shores?

The House of Representatives has shown us the stuff it is made of. In May, after the legislative break, we will get to see whether our senators are as enlightened as they make themselves out to be. We hope they realize that this “tough” position actually weakens us instead.

Topics: Weakening our stand

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