FREE AT LAST. Filipino domestic helper May Vecina has escaped certain death after she was granted a full pardon by the Kuwaiti Emir. – GMANews.TVMANILA, Philippines - Two years after escaping death in Kuwait, a thankful May Vecina has finally returned home to the Philippines on Tuesday morning.
Vecina, the overseas Filipino worker (OFW) whose death sentence was waived after a full pardon by Kuwait’s ruler, repeatedly thanked God and the Philippine government for saving her life.
"I thank everyone, I thank God, President Arroyo, Vice President Noli de Castro, and my fellow Filipinos," she told radio dzXL in Filipino.
She also thanked Ambassador to Kuwait Rolando Endaya for rescuing her from death row.
De Castro, in a separate interview on dzXL, said Vecina was to be brought to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
The 30-year-old OFW received a pardon from Kuwaiti Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah and was initially to be repatriated last June 24.
Vecina, a mother of two from North Cotabato province, was found guilty of killing her employer’s seven-year-old son Salem Sulaiman al-Otaib on Jan. 6, 2007.
She was also accused of attempting to kill the victim’s 13-year-old brother Abdulla by slitting the boy’s throat, and his 17-year-old sister Hajer by stabbing her.
During her trial, Vecina said she suffered physical and mental abuse from her employer that resulted in "temporary insanity." But the Kuwait Supreme Court upheld her sentence of death penalty by hanging.
On July 8, 2008, the emir signed a decree commuting Vecina's death sentence to life imprisonment.
Last June 1, the Kuwaiti emir granted Vecina full pardon for her good behavior during her time at the Kuwaiti Central Jail.
Fifty-nine Filipino workers languishing in various jails worldwide are facing the death penalty for crimes ranging from drug possession to murder, according to the DFA.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr. said the cases cover the period from January 2006 to June 2008. There are 30 active death penalty cases in various stages of appeal, and eight potential death penalty cases that the Philippine government is closely monitoring and assisting.
Most of the cases involve offenses such as rape, drug smuggling and homicide. They are pending in China, Malaysia, Kuwait, Brunei, United States and Saudi Arabia.
Citing data from Philippine foreign posts, Conejos said 87 Filipinos have been sentenced to death since January 2006. Of these cases, 28 were commuted and 12 have returned home after serving their prison sentences. [See: After Vecina’s freedom, what about other Filipinos in jails abroad?]
Just days after Vecina’s pardon, the Kuwaiti court affirmed the death sentence of another OFW, Jakatia Mandon Pawa of Zamboanga del Norte. Pawa was sentenced to death on April 13, 2008 for allegedly killing her employer’s 22-year-old daughter. Her case is still on appeal.
With Ramadan less than three months away, DFA officials are becoming more optimistic because Middle East governments often turn soft on inmates who have done well in jail during the Muslim holy month.
"We expect more Filipinos on death row will have their sentences commuted, probably even pardoned," a DFA official who requested anonymity said. - Joseph Holandes Ubalde, GMANews.TV