Press Release
January 13, 2016


Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero wants the government to study the possibility of utilizing public funds to raise "blood money" for distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East in order to save them from death penalty.

But before making such move, however, Escudero said the government should first determine its legality by seeking guidance from the Commission on Audit and the courts.

"Dapat suriing maige ng pamahalaan ang paggamit ng public funds sa pagbabayad ng blood money para mailigtas ang buhay ng ating mga kababayang nalalagay sa bingit ng kamatayan," Escudero said.

Escudero made the suggestion in the wake of the execution of Filipino construction worker Joselito Zapanta in Saudi Arabia on Dec. 29 after government efforts to raise $1 million, or roughly P47 million, in blood money fell short.

The government was only able to raise P23 million for the 35-year-old Zapanta, who was convicted of robbery and murder of his Sudanese landlord in 2009.

It is the policy of the government to help raise funds for blood money from voluntary sources, but not to allocate funds from the national treasury for this purpose.

Escudero said this policy should be reviewed considering that there are still around 79 Filipinos on death row around the world based on the record of the Department of Foreign Affairs, with some of them requiring blood money.

At the same time, Escudero said the government should go beyond raising blood money by making sure that every OFW facing criminal charges abroad is accorded legal assistance--from the time the crime was committed until the case is resolved.

He said it is the duty of the government, through its embassies and consulates, to make sure that the rights of a Filipino accused of any crime or wrongdoing abroad are protected at all times, whether he or she is guilty or not.

"Nagsisimula pa lang 'yung kaso, kinasuhan pa lang o dinemanda pa lang, o hinuli pa lang 'yung Pilipino, dapat ang ating embahada at konsulado ay nandoon na agad," Escudero pointed out.

"Hindi 'yung kapag na-convict na o napatawan na ng parusang kamatayan ay doon lamang po sila papasok at biglang tutulong," he added.

Escudero, the frontrunner in the vice-presidential race, also said that he and his running mate Sen. Grace Poe plan to pass legislation that would prohibit Philippine embassies and consulates worldwide from "acting as tour guides" to visiting lawmakers and local officials.

"Ang trabaho po nila ay tutukan at tulungan ang ating OFWs. Hindi po magpa-impress sa mga opisyal na bumibisita sa bansa kung saan sila naka-assign," Escudero stressed.

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