Two OFWs pardoned through PGMA's personal intercession back from Saudi Arabia

January 29, 2010 11:14 pm 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, Jan. 29 — Two female overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) saved from death by hanging in Saudi Arabia through the timely personal intercession of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo paid a courtesy call Friday afternoon on Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alberto G. Romulo.

Idan Tejano of Batangas province and Marjanna Sakilan of Jolo, Sulu were convicted in the death of the latter’s pregnant employer on May 21, 2001.

The two were accompanied to the meeting with Romulo by Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Antonio Villamor.

DFA said that Romulo “did not leave any stone unturned“ to ensure their safe repatriation to the Philippines and their reunion with their families.

“I am glad to see you well and in Manila. The Philippine Government has spared no effort to ensure that you are safe, and are able to come home to the Philippines and be with your families,” Romulo told the returnees. “The President has asked us to go the farthest length to help all our OFWs, our new heroes.”

They proceeded to Malacanang to also meet with the President.

Tejano and Sakilan were sentenced by the Jeddah Shari’ah Court to death by hanging in May 2004, after they were convicted of robbing their employer and killing her.

But their sentence was suspended because a daughter of the murdered employer was still a minor. Under Saudi Arabian law, the family members of the victim must have a say in determining the meting out of a punishment and this could be done only when the members are of a majority age (18 years and above).

In the meantime, they were put to prison and actually served eight years and seven months of their 12-year sentence by the time the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) informed Ambassador Villamor of the release. Aside from imprisonment, they were lashed 1,200 times.

The good news of their repatriation to Manila came in the midst of high expectations that next month at least 100 more Filipinos who are still languishing in Saudi jails have been considered for forgiveness and included in the December 2009 List of Royal Pardons issued by King Abdullah. The first batch of nine pardoned under this latest royal decree have already been repatriated.

Such pardons are only for locals and foreigners detained or sentenced for petty crimes and have duly restituted their victims, DFA clarified.

President Arroyo last personally followed up on her request for clemency for the two OFWs on September 23 last year, when she attended the inauguration of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia. She first appealed for the two women's deliverance on July 23, 2005. In the interim, DFA Undersecretary Rafael Seguis hand-delivered a letter from President Arroyo to the MFA in 2007.

In 2009, the President handed the King her letter, which noted also that both the public and private rights aspects of the case have been settled. The public aspect included their having served prison terms while the private aspect referred to the restitution and feelings of the victim’s kin.

To further follow up on the President’s wishes, the MFA and other government institutions consulted with each other. MFA Deputy Minister Dr. Ahmed Al-Salam eventually informed Villamor that the two Filipino women were being released. (PNA)

scs/GJB

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