Palace forms a committee to decide on blood money guidelines

First, a definition of terms.

Qisas is a principle under the Shari’a or Islamic law that makes the actual perpetrator of a crime alone guilty, and alone liable to punishment. The punishment must be the exact equivalent of the crime, i.e. tooth for a tooth, life for a life. [5:45, The Holy Qur’an]

However, in consideration of the priceless value of human life, the Islamic law explicitly recommends the substitution of compensation on another plane — through the so-called “diyyah” or blood money compensation for the victim’s mandatory heirs.

Upon the acceptance of “diyyah”, a letter of forgiveness or “tanazul” is issued by the victim’s mandatory heirs.

Once the “tanazul” is issued, the private aspects of the case is extinguished, and what is left is the public rights aspect of the case which can be waived by the King or Emir (head of state).

Without a “tanazul”, the King (in Saudi Arabia’s case) will never issue pardon or commute the sentence of the perpetrator. To show intent on the part of the victim that compliance with “diyyah” is forthcoming, an initial deposit of SR 100,000 is required.

With that out of the way, let us now proceed to the crux of the problem.

In Saudi Arabia, there are three OFWs on death row that I personally know of who have dire need of “diyyah”. In two of these cases, the amounts involved are staggering. Fully aware of these cases, the Palace through Secretary Edwin Lacierda announced that a technical working group to be led by the Vice-President shall draft the guidelines on payments of blood money for overseas workers convicted of murder or homicide. The TWG shall include officials from DoLE, DOJ, DFA, DBM, and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs.

Going back to the OFWs in most need of help in raising “diyyah”, here is a summary of their cases, as I know it (caveat: there may be new updates that I’m not aware of being not a part of government)

Case A is the most pressing among the three. His case is now with the Supreme Court. This is the most sensitive and urgent of the three cases that I know of. It’s best to keep this particular case out of the public eye because previous adverse news reports have not been helpful at all in appeasement efforts.

Case B is that of an Internet-savvy Filipino who is now the subject of an online fundraising effort. The “diyyah” involved is huge. DFA sources say that the court ruling on his case still stands — it will be up to the son of the victim to decide on the case. Frantic calls to raise the “diyyah” have arisen because after ten years on death row, the victim’s family has surprisingly shown willingness to accept compensation. A knowledgeable source describes this as a “breakthrough”. But that window may soon close unless government helps our compatriot raise the “diyyah”. Will he be beheaded once that window closes? Per the DFA, the answer is no. Perhaps the appropriate answer should be, not yet unless by some strange twist the original court ruling is set aside.

Case C involves a Filipino who, with a single knife wound, stabbed his own compatriot while below the deck. Both are seafarers. The aggrieved parents have signified their intention to accept compensation – a decision that was difficult to make. In this case, the “diyyah” is well within the reach of this administration. The DFA had mentioned to me that no final court ruling has been handed down. This should not be considered as good news. The victim had 5 years to raise the “diyyah” but the family is very poor. His parents are corn vendors in Caloocan City. Their son has been in jail together with death row inmates for nearly 4 years. This means that he has just barely a year to go before the court decides and without a “tanazul”, that decision could prove fatal. The OFW’s mom is a sweet, guileless woman who has been going to the DFA for the past three years in search for answers and solutions. I guess she, too, would have to wait for the committee to issue its guidelines.

These are matters of life and death that require not a committee but a conscience. There will always be people who’d say that these OFWs on death row are there precisely because they committed a crime and have to pay for it. But if you are the State, and you have the power to save a compatriot’s life because the laws of another country allow it, wouldn’t you go the extra mile to do just that?

In conscience, can any leader just wait for heads to literally fall because the compensation being required is simply too high? Does one equate such unique arrangements for compensation with classrooms to be built, conditional cash transfers that can be given out, or capital outlay expenses that could be met? Can the State not spearhead a special fund where known philanthropists, and fellow overseas workers can contribute alongside government’s share?

Isn’t compassion just as important in calculating the true worth of good governance?

I know that these are difficult times and money is quite hard to come by. I also know that these OFWs are not without unbloodied hands. Yet, they could be saved, and be reformed with God’s grace.

If the families of their victims have come to accept and forgive our compatriots, shouldn’t we as well?

I appeal, therefore, to the Palace and to the technical group that it has formed to please meet with the families of the Filipinos on death row in Saudi Arabia. Talk to them. Hold the hands of their mothers and fathers and tell them that a committee has been formed. That the mechanics regarding blood money for OFWs on death row shall be discussed, and recommendations will be made.

Then listen to the ticking of the clock.

Decide soon because death, particularly on the above-mentioned cases, waits for no one.

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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