The Jakatia Pawa Story

IN Kuwait, a nameless grave containing the body of an innocent Filipino woman, executed for the crime of murder, is shrouded in the silence of the dumbfounded. Here lies Jakatia Pawa, says its invisible epitaph: caring mother, hardworking OFW, and innocent beyond reasonable doubt.

I write this so that generations hence, when her two children have their children and so on, ask about their Jakatia, somehow the Internet would spew this article—like a message in a bottle—floating in an infinite digital universe. She was executed, yes, but because she was just another disposable foreign domestic worker of a wealthy, dysfunctional Kuwaiti family.

Last Wednesday, at 5 o’clock in the morning, Lt. Col. Gary Pawa who is based in Zamboanga City, received a phone call from Kuwait. “Tata,” his sister, started the call with a request for forgiveness. The brother said that this was common among Muslims. Then she started saying goodbye and asking her brother to look after her children. Col. Pawa asked her, “Where are you going?” Jakatia broke down and cried. “They told me that my execution is today.” And at exactly 3.19 p.m. that very day, she was hanged.

The Pawa case has spanned three administrations—from Presidents Arroyo to Aquino to the incumbent Duterte. The Kuwait police arrested Tata in May 2007 for allegedly killing the daughter of her Kuwaiti employer. The daughter was found dead in her bedroom with 28 stab wounds. The family pointed a finger at Jakatia. At the time of her arrest, Jakatia had no lawyer or interpreter to help her out. In 2008, the lower court found her guilty and sentenced her to death. In January 2010, the highest court in Kuwait affirmed the sentence. During court hearings, she had a lawyer supplied by the embassy.

Not an iota of evidence existed to link Jakatia to the crime. She had no motive, and in fact, her contract was renewed and extended by the Kuwait family whom she served faithfully for five years. Her DNA was not the DNA found on the knife. From May 2007 until her very last breath, Jakatia Pawa had always maintained her innocence.

Two countries failed to save an innocent OFW, and despite the long narration from the Department of Foreign Affairs on what it had done to ensure legal representation, that failure will always be a matter of public record. The aggrieved family, especially the mother, refused to enter into any negotiations for the blood money, the payment of which would lead to the act of forgiveness and eventual freedom for Jakatia.

According to Jakatia, it was the mother who killed her daughter, in a twisted case of an “honor killing.” She was in the kitchen washing the dishes when she heard screams emanating from the daughter’s bedroom. Lt. Col. Pawa told this writer that her employers made it appear that it was Jakatia who killed their daughter. But why would a domestic worker stab someone 28 times unprovoked? Jakatia never had a falling out with the daughter.

According to Jakatia, as retold by her brother, the parents found their daughter allegedly entertaining a man inside her room, a man not her fiancée. Such an act would be considered “haram” or sinful, a cause of dishonor to the wealthy family. Lt. Col. Pawa, who attended one of the court hearings, whenever his sister tried to tell the court about the intimate details of what went on in the young daughter’s room, the judge would cut her short. Such sensitive details included finding a man’s underwear in the room.

I support calls for a review of the Jakatia Pawa case in the Senate and House of Representatives. A review is needed not to lay the blame on our diplomats and the Department of Foreign Affairs, but to see where the gaps were, and how improvements could be made to prevent the execution of another innocent OFW. Such a legislative hearing may also dwell on arguments and counter-arguments surrounding calls for a suspension in the deployment of Filipino domestic workers to Kuwait.

Was the embassy at fault? I have known Ambassador Rene Villa for some time, and I know him to be a very good man. However, if, as reported by the media, the Philippine Embassy had received official information about the execution 18 hours before it was carried out, why did they not contact the Pawa family? Why must Col. Pawa hear about the execution directly from Jakatia on the day of her execution? And when the deed was done, why let the brother hear about it from the news and from this writer? The DFA through its regional office could have been the first to inform Jakatia’s brother about the execution. And where was the Presidential Adviser on OFW Affairs prior to and after the execution? His silence is shrill.

Dear Readers, please include Jakatia “Tata” Pawa and her family in your prayers. They have been through a lot and will continue to grieve for a very long time.

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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