MANILA, DECEMBER 23, 2007 (OFFICE OF THE PRESS SECRETARY, MALACANANG) A total of 19 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have been saved from execution through the efforts of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the representation of other government officials since Jan. 2006.

In a report to Malacanang, the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it has monitored 52 death penalty cases involving OFWs.

Of the 52 cases, 19 were “commuted through the efforts of the President, the Vice President and the Department (DFA) conducting high-level negotiations with the host governments.”

The latest to be saved from the hangman’s noose was Marilou Ranario whose death sentence was commuted by the Emir of Kuwait early this month following the personal intercession of the President.

The 19 commuted death penalty cases comprise 37 percent of the total OFWs on death row abroad.

Of the 19, seven have been repatriated to the Philippines since last February. Six of the seven were convicted of murder in the Middle East before they were sent home, while the seventh -- Jun Jailani -- was convicted of drug trafficking in Kuala Lumpur.

The seven OFWs now back in the country are Damaso Atienza (Riyadh) and Reynaldo San Pedro (Jeddah), both of whom were released in Feb. 2007; Sarah Dematera (Riyadh), May 2007; Jailani (KL) and Melvin Obejera (Jeddah), Aug. 2007; and Ronilo Arandia (Jeddah) and Fermie Salarza (Cairo), Nov. 2007.

Of the 12 OFWs formerly on death row but whose sentences have since been commuted, three were convicted of multiple murders; eight were convicted of murder, while one was convicted of drug trafficking, also in Kuala Lumpur.

The convicted OFWs and their commuted sentences are as follows: • Marilou Ranario (Kuwait murder), life imprisonment. • Guen Aguilar (Singapore murder), 10 years imprisonment. • Victoriano Alfonso (Jeddah multiple murder), eight years imprisonment plus 1,000 lashes; • Andy Baginda (Sabah KL drug trafficking), life imprisonment. • Wilson Basilio (Jeddah multiple murder), eight years imprisonment plus 1,000 lashes. • Ma. Fe Cruzado (Kuwait murder), 20-30 years imprisonment. • Efren Dimaun (Jeddah multiple murder), eight years imprisonment plus 1,000 lashes. • Aristocles Escalante (Jeddah murder), five years imprisonment after payment of blood money. • Joel Sinamban (Jeddah murder), eight years imprisonment plus 1,000 lashes. • Zenaida Taulbee (Washington DC murder), 157-198 (13-16.5 years) months imprisonment. • Rolando Villamin (Doha murder), 10 year imprisonment after payment of blood money; and • Norito Abono (Riyadh murder), five years imprisonment plus 500 lashes after payment of blood money.

(STAR) GMA to spend Christmas in QC

Monday, December 24, 2007 President Arroyo and the First Family will spend Christmas in a reunion with the Arroyo clan in their private home in La Vista, Quezon City, Malacañang said yesterday.

“The President also looks forward to spending time with her apos (grandchildren),” Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said.

He said the reunion will be held at the Arroyo family compound in La Vista, where her children – Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, Camarines Sur Rep. Diosdado “Dato” Arroyo and Evangeline “Luli” Arroyo – grew up.

Officials said the First Family is expected to go to Baguio this weekend where they usually spend New Year’s Eve.

Mrs. Arroyo’s public engagements today include her meeting with stakeholders of the country’s education sector at 1 p.m. followed by a call by a transport group “1-Utak” which lost in the party-list race in the May polls.

In her Christmas message, Mrs. Arroyo said the country’s growing economy was a source of optimism for Filipinos.

“This Christmas, it can be said that the Philippines is stable, strong and peaceful,” the President said in Filipino. – Paolo Romero

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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