The family and friends of Joselito Zapanta, the Filipino migrant worker who was executed in Saudi Arabia for the murder of his Sudanese landlord, along with other overseas-worker advocates, on Wednesday held a prayer vigil in Barangay San Vicente, Bacolor, Pampanga.
This was announced by Susan Ople, head of the non-government organization Blas F. Ople Policy Center, on Twitter a day after Zapanta’s execution in a public plaza in Riyadh.
His remains were immediately buried in accordance with Islamic tradition.
Zapanta was reportedly a convert to Islam.
Ople said Zapanta’s horrific death was painful.
“Matagal na akong OFW advocate, personal na humahawak ng iba’t ibang mga kaso. Isa sa pinakamabigat sa puso itong kay Joselito Zapanta. RIP [I’ve been an OFW advocate for a long time and I held several cases. This case of Joselito Zapanta is one of the most heartbreaking. RIP],” she tweeted.
In a separate statement, Ople urged the government to donate a percentage of the blood money raised to save Zapanta from execution to his family and other distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on death row.
The government’s effort to raise the P48-million blood money, demanded by the family of the Sudanese victim, fell short.
Fund-raising efforts only managed to collect P23 million.
Ople pointed out that Zapanta left two young children, aged 13 and 11. His mother, Ramona, is also in need of medical attention.
She was rushed to a hospital because of hypertension on Tuesday after learning that her son was already executed.
“I appeal to our government to provide much needed assistance to the family especially now that Joselito is gone,” Ople said.
She added, “… the government was able to raise P23 million, which is now in a bank account opened by the Philippine Embassy for the aggrieved Sudanese family. Since that amount had been rejected by the Sudanese widow thus leading to Joselito’s execution, would the government be amenable to donating some amount to the grieving Filipino family? That is a policy decision that needs to be clarified.”
Meanwhile, Ople called for a review of the government’s policy on blood money cases, considering there are other 90 Filipinos on death row abroad, some of them requiring blood money.
She recommended the formation of a special unit to tackle death penalty and blood money cases involving distressed migrant workers.
“The DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] should not be alone in this task because [its]role is limited to diplomatic functions and assistance to nationals through talks with [its]counterparts. A more cohesive and transparent mechanis m and policy are needed because there are still several pending and urgent blood money cases involving OFWs in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait,” Ople said.