MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine government is considering a standard policy on payment of so-called “blood money” to save Filipinos facing the death penalty in Muslim countries after receiving a huge demand from a victim’s family in Saudi Arabia, officials said Monday.
The Philippines, one of the world’s largest labor exporters, has saved several Filipino convicts in the past by helping raise money for victims’ families. Nearly 10 percent of the Philippines’ 94 million people work abroad, many as laborers and housemaids, and the money they send back bolsters the country’s economy.
Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is also presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers, said an interagency group he heads will soon recommend to President Benigno Aquino III a policy outlining when and how much “blood money” the government should pay to save citizens facing execution in Muslim countries.
Under Islamic law, victims’ relatives can be compensated with “blood money” or “diyya” to stop the execution of a convict.
Joey Salgado, a spokesman for Binay, said Aquino sought a study on “blood money” payments after the relatives of a murder victim in Saudi Arabia sought more than $700,000 (30 million pesos) from the convicted Filipino, much more than the amounts demanded by murder victims’ families in the past.
The convicted Filipino, who has appealed for donations through a Facebook account, faces beheading in the next few years, officials said.
The plight of overseas Filipino workers, many of whom travel abroad in search of better opportunities, is an emotional issue that officials have struggled to address.
Gary Martinez, who heads the labor group Migrante International, said the government should strengthen legal assistance for Filipino workers facing criminal charges abroad instead of focusing on last-ditch options like “blood money” payments.
“Why should we wait to help our distressed countrymen until they’re about to be beheaded?” he said.
Philippine embassies lack lawyers familiar with Islamic laws and are often unable to help Filipinos facing prosecution in Muslim countries, Martinez said.
A senior diplomat said more than 10 Filipinos were saved from the death penalty during the nine-year presidency of Aquino’s predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, by paying “blood money” of a few million pesos each that was raised with the help of businessmen. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
More than 100 Filipinos are on death row overseas, many in Middle Eastern countries, Migrante said.