MANILA, Philippines — The conviction of three overseas Filipino workers (OFWS) for last year’s slaying of three compatriots in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has put the Philippine government in an unusual position.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday confirmed that Eduardo Arcilla and brothers Edison and Roland Gonzales of Pampanga were sentenced to death by a Jeddah court for killing and chopping off the body parts of Reno Lumbang, Jeremias Bucod, and Dante Rivero in April last year.
Four others — Omar Basilio, Joel Sinambang, Efren Dimahon and Victor Alfonso — were sentenced to eight-year jail terms and 1,000 lashings each for their participation in the crime.
DFA spokesman Claro Cristobal said because the perpetrators and the victims are all Filipinos, the Philippine government is committed to appeal the case of the convicted OFWs and, at the same time, assist their victims’ families.
“The President and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs have given clear instructions to assist the Filipino nationals involved in the case. And because their victims are also Filipinos, we must also extend assistance to the families of the victims,” he said.
Asked if the government will help raise the so-called blood money to save the three convicts from capital punishment, Cristobal said that as Saudi laws apply, the mechanism that allows for their forgiveness and subsequent release also applies.
The DFA spokesman, however, said this mechanism, called the “tanazul,” will not be invoked until the court decision becomes “final and executory,” that is, until it reaches the Saudi Supreme Court.
As in the Philippine judicial system, the Saudi courts have two more layers of appeal for the convicted — its Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, he said.
Cristobal said the affirmation of the lower court’s decision by the Saudi Court of Appeals may come in eight to 10 months. He said this will then be automatically reviewed by the Saudi Supreme Court, which may decide in another eight to 10 months.
He said that given this process, the Philippine government may have to consider “tanazul” in mid-2009.