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Gov't help extended to Joselito Zapanta as early as 2012 –VP Binay

Vice President Jejomar Binay on Tuesday said government help had been extended to Joselito Zapanta, who was executed in Saudi Arabia for killing a Sudanese national in 2009, as early as 2012.

In a press statement, Binay said his office worked closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and exhausted all diplomatic and legal efforts in order to save Zapanta, including a personal written appeal to the King of Saudi Arabia in 2012.

In his letter to Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Binay, then the presidential adviser on OFW concerns, a post he held until his resignation from the Cabinet this year, sought for a deferment of Zapanta’s death sentence.

"We likewise issued appeals for help in raising the blood money demanded by the family of his victim, in keeping with Saudi laws," he said.

Binay said the Philippine government was also in constant talks with the family of Zapanta's victim and was able to secure several extensions for the payment of blood money.

“Despite our best efforts—and the kindness and generosity of private individuals, the local government of Pampanga and non-governmental organizations (NGOs)— we were unable to raise the SAR 4 million (P48 million) demanded by the family," he added.

After initially demanding SAR 5 million for the execution of an affidavit of forgiveness and prevent the imposition of the death penalty, the victim's family agreed to lower the amount to SAR 4 million.

Out of the SAR 4 million or about P45 million blood money set by the victim's heirs, Zapanta's family was only able to raise SAR 1.8 million (P23 million).

Binay had earlier said President Benigno Aquino III himself had pledged  a "substantial" amount to save Zapanta. He, however, did not disclose the amount the President pledged, nor where it will be sourced from. 

Zapanta’s execution order has been signed as early as 2013.

Meanwhile, pro-migrants group Migrante said Zapanta's execution "is another proof of government negligence."

"Its policy to provide legal assitance ONLY when OFW is convicted and sentenced to death," Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrnate chairperson. "Its failure will result to execution of our bagong bayani as in the case of Joselito."

"We express our deep sympathy and sincere condolences to the bereaved family of Joselito Zapanta," Regalado said.  –Amita Legaspi and Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News