Palace: We did everything to help beheaded OFW

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang yesterday expressed its condolences to the family of the overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who was beheaded by the Saudi Arabian government after he was convicted of murdering his employer in December 2010.

Press Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the government did all it could to have the sentence reduced and to spare 37-year-old Carlito Lana from execution.

Lana was found guilty of shooting Nasser al-Gahtani and then running him over with a car.

“The government did all that it could to help Mr. Lana and we made sure that all his legal rights were protected while respecting the judicial process,” he said.

As far as the government and the Department of Foreign Affairs are concerned, Lana was given a fair trial, where the Philippine embassy in Saudi even hired the services of the Al Quwaizani law office and consultants, as well to ensure that his rights were protected.

“The government also made efforts to facilitate the visit of his relatives while he was detained in Riyadh,” Coloma said over dzRB yesterday.

“We are saddened by the execution of Lana in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) also extends its condolences to the family of Lana,” he added.

Until now, Coloma said the government continues to offer help to Lana’s family.

Coloma also took the opportunity to call on other Filipino workers all over the world to follow the laws set by their host countries and avoid getting infractions, especially since some nations have harsher laws than the Philippines.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, presidential adviser for OFW concerns, said the Saudi government does not inform the foreign embassies and even the prisoners in advance of the execution dates. Instead, official notices are sent after the execution.

He said Lana’s lawyer tried several times to convince the victim’s family to accept Lana’s apology but failed.

Binay said President Aquino also wrote to Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, asking for his “intercession” by negotiating an amicable settlement. However, that too did not push through.

The DFA said it was saddened by Lana’s execution and promised to assist his family. “We are saddened by the death of Filipino national Carlito Lana and we condole with his family for their loss,” DFA spokesman Charles Jose said.

“Our embassy in Riyadh will assist his kin in bringing his remains back to the Philippines at the earliest opportunity,” Jose added.

According to a tally by news agency Agence France Presse, 80 foreigners and Saudis have now been executed in the country this year, despite international concerns over the number and the judicial process.

More than two-thirds of this year’s executions have been carried out over the past four months.

Rape, murder, apostasy, drug trafficking and armed robbery are all punishable by death under the kingdom’s strict version of Islamic Shariah law.

On the other hand, a group of overseas Filipino workers called for an investigation into the high number of executions of Filipinos abroad.

Garry Martinez, chairman of Migrante International, questioned the increasing number of executions of Filipinos abroad.

“This is a dark day for migrant Filipinos, especially for those on death row abroad. We call for an investigation on why there have been the most number of executions that pushed through under Aquino’s term,” Martinez said in a statement.

According to Martinez, Lana’s family sought their help when he was arrested. Lana admitted to killing his employer in self-defense.

“He was suffering abuses in the hands of his employer. When the crime happened, he even rushed his employer to the hospital but they met a vehicular accident on their way. That was when the Saudi police arrested him. From the start, we have questioned the Philippine government if he was given legal assistance,” Martinez explained.

Martinez then expressed concern over the plight of other Filipinos on death row and those in detention.

Martinez said the government has not shown transparency or accountability for failing to save the lives of Filipino workers languishing in death row.

He said the government should explain why funds for legal assistance for OFWs in distress have been slashed since 2010, while there have been reports that P52 million in legal funds for them were unused since 2011.

“In the case of Lana, we will not be surprised if, at all, it will be discovered that legal assistance was offered only at the last minute. The same happened to the first five who were executed,” Martinez said. – With Mayen Jaymalin












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