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Kin of Filipina on Kuwait death row, NGOs hold vigil at DFA

MANILA, Philippines -- Non-government organizations and the family of Marilou Ranario will hold a three-hour “Bantay Hatol [Decision Watch]” outside the Department of Foreign Affairs for the promulgation of the Kuwaiti Supreme Court over her possible death sentence.

Ranario, who left her two children (ages 11 and 13) in Surigao Del Norte in December 2003 for work abroad, had been sentenced to death by the lower courts in Kuwait for the killing of her employer in January 2005. The decision of the Kuwaiti Supreme Court scheduled for promulgation this Tuesday will be final and unappealable.

Maita Santiago, secretary general of Migrante International, said Bantay Hatol was an initiative of an alliance of groups composed of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families in an effort to intensify actions to save Ranario's life.

The gathering will be from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., the time that the promulgation in Kuwait will take place. (The Philippines is about six hours ahead of Kuwait.)

“Today is essentially Marilou’s final judgment day. We appeal again to the Kuwait amir to ensure that Marilou does not suffer a fate similar to Flor Contemplacion. We’re hopeful that Marilou’s life may indeed be saved,” said Santiago, referring to the celebrated case of an OFW in Singapore who was sentenced to death for the killing of her ward and another OFW.

Contemplacion's case had prompted the enactment of the Magna Carta for Migrant Workers.

Santiago said that with exception of the estranged husband and a brother of Ranario's victim, other family members have reportedly given their tanazul (forgiveness).

Ranario confessed to the crime, but Santiago said that when asked why she was confessing, the OFW on death row gave the vague answer of, “Yan ang gusto ni Madam [That's what Madam wants].”

“Her answer is not clear. We suspect that she's been abused long before her arrest. We would like to know the circumstances which led her to where she is now,” she said.

Santiago said Rosario Ranario (Marilou’s father) and brothers will join them at the DFA this afternoon.

“We hope for more than a commutation of her death sentence, [we hope] that she is released and repatriated soonest to the Philippines. Anything less means the Arroyo administration has failed Marilou and her family anew,” she said.

Top government officials, led by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Vice President Noli De Castro, have sent an appeal for Ranario's clemency to the Kuwaiti amir.

Santiago said her group was hoping that “the appeal is not too late...We maintain that in critical cases like this, the intervention of the highest government officials should be at the very beginning and not towards the end of the OFW’s ordeal.”

The Migrante official said in many cases such as these, the government only came in after a sustained campaign by the family and NGOs.



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