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RP post: OFW not being starved in Saudi jail

After making verifications, Philippine authorities belied on Saturday claims that an overseas Filipino worker is being starved at a jail in Saudi Arabia. The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh also said it continues to extend assistance to Joselito Zapanta, an OFW sentenced to death last April 13. "According to Malaz Central Jail representatives, the supply of food and water is provided by a catering service contracted by the Saudi government for this purpose. Thus, it is unlikely that a detainee will be denied that right," Philippine Third Secretary and Vice Consul Roussel Reyes said in an article posted Saturday on the Department of Foreign Affairs website. Zapanta had been sentenced to death for killing and then stealing from his Sudanese landlord in June 2009. Reyes said Embassy representatives visit him twice a week in Malaz Central Jail where he is incarcerated, and also to follow up on cases of Filipinos incarcerated there. The Embassy also engaged a Saudi national who is an expert on Shariah law to assist Zapanta in his appeal. Earlier, Migrante Middle East coordinator John Monterona claimed Zapanta, 30, had not been given his supply of food and water. (See: OFW being starved in KSA jail, militant group claims) “His family had called, asking for help, for Joselito is not given any food nor water ... that was four days ago," an article posted July 31 on the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines news site quoted him as saying. Monterona urged the Philippine post’s Assistance to Nationals Unit (ANU) in Riyadh to attend to Zapanta’s family's plea to visit him in jail and give him needed assistance. The CBCP article said it was the second time Zapanta had complained about his condition. Last May, he told his relatives he had been beaten by a fellow prisoner. For his part, DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos Jr. said the DFA is exhausting all means to help him. "Following the sub judice principle, the DFA is working quietly in contacting the victim's family and will refrain from any public discussions on the case. I urge all private interested parties to exercise circumspection in issuing public pronouncements regarding this case so as not to jeopardize ongoing efforts to save his life," he said. Conejos also warned against further "publicity" that may jeopardize Zapanta's chances of clemency, saying the case is approaching a sensitive phase. Zapanta, a native of Mexico town in Pampanga, had argued with his Sudanese landlord when he refused to the demands to pay rent in advance, since his payment was not yet due. During the argument, he fatally hit the victim with a hammer. The OFW also admitted to the police that he stole the Sudanese's wallet and mobile phone, which he later gave to a Filipina. The Filipina was later convicted and imprisoned as accomplice in the crime of robbery, but was repatriated in January 2010 after serving her sentence.—JV, GMANews.TV