November 13 the day Kuwait’s highest court heard oral arguments on the appeal of Marilou Ranario who was convicted to death for the killing of her female employer was also marked by protests actions participated in by organizations of overseas Filipinos and Philippine solidarity groups in at least six countries.
BY AUBREY MAKILAN
Vol. VII, No. 41, Nov. 18-24
Filipinos in at least six countries appealed to the Kuwaiti embassy in their respective host countries to save the life of Marilou Ranario, an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) sentenced to death in Kuwait.
Marilou Ranario languishes in death row after a Kuwaiti Court sentenced her to death by hanging in September 2005 for killing her female employer. An appeals court upheld this decision in February 2007. Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Ricardo M. Endaya reported to the Department of Foreign Affairs that Kuwait’s highest court, the 11-member Court of Cassation, heard oral arguments on the Ranario case last November 13. The court has set the promulgation of its decision on December 27.
Filipino voices abroad
OFWs and Filipinos in Japan, Hong Kong, Canada, Australia, United States, and The Netherlands responded to the international day of action to save the life of Marilou Ranario, by staging pickets and flooding Kuwaiti embassies with letters of appeal on November 13, the scheduled day of oral arguments on Ranario’s case.
In Japan, members of the Filipino community and local Japanese solidarity groups and individuals met with officials of the Kuwait embassy in Tokyo to express their support for Ranario.
”We have come together to make an appeal to Your Highness, on humanitarian grounds, to spare the life of a fellow Filipino, Marilou Ranario,” read a statement of appeal they submitted to the embassy of Kuwait in Japan. The Filipino delegation are composed of representatives of the Philippine Women’s League (PWL), the Filipina Circle for Advancement and Progress (FICAP), the Kalipunan ng mga Filipino Nagkakaisa (KAFIN) and Migrante-Japan.
“It could have been a case of self defense,” Rossana Tapiru of Migrante–Japan said. “Marilou Ranario is not a murderer. She was a victim of circumstances like many other OFWs who suffer various forms of abuse and exploitation in the hands of their employer and in the hands of their own government,” Tapiru lamented.
In The Netherlands, Migrante-Europe leaders led a delegation to the Kuwait Embassy in The Hague, with leaders of Migrante-Netherlands, Migrante Sectoral Party-Netherlands and other advocates. These groups also plan to appeal to the European Parliament to intervene for Marilou Ranario’s behalf.
Migrante organizations and networks in Canada and Australia also issued letters of appeal for Marilou.
In Canada,various groups including the British Columbia Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, the Center for Philippine Concerns-Manitoba, the Center for Philippine Concerns-Montreal and PINAY sent letters of concern to the Kuwait and Philippine governments. Migrante-Ontario and the Philippine Australia Women’s Association also flooded their respective Kuwait Embassies in Canada and Australia with faxed letters.
In Hong Kong, a protest action was held at the office of the Philippine Consulate General. The protesters urged the Philippine government to exert more efforts to convince the Kuwait government to release Ranario.
“As desperation drove her to go abroad, cruelty under the hands of her employer brought her to such deed. It will be unjust to make her and her family suffer more,” said Dolores Balladares, United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-HK) chairperson.
Before the protest action, a delegation composed of representatives fromm the UNIFIL, Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM), and the Mission for Migrant Workers (MFMW) went to the Kuwait Consulate General to hand in a petition for Marilou’s case.
“While we appeal for the life of Marilou, we demand even more. We demand for GMA and her government to pay for every abused, imprisoned and murdered OFW,” Balladares said.
In New York, United States, Kabalikat-Philippine Forum, a domestic workers support group, led a community prayer and vigil to raise awareness and support for Ranario’s case. Along with the Kabalikat-Philippine Forum, other groups that participated included the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines and the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns.
“We, NYC-based Filipina household workers, nannies, caregivers, along with other concerned overseas Filipinos and advocates of basic human rights, demand that our sister, Marilou Ranario, be released immediately from the Kuwaiti jail she continues to languish in since being convicted for the death of her employer in 2005,” said the NY-based Filipino migrant groups.
The NY-based added, “Philippine embassies and consulate offices abroad are absolutely useless and fail to protect our valued overseas workers, aggressively sending more workers overseas to face similar fates. The Arroyo administration has remained painfully silent while boasting of an economy sustained by migrant laborers like Marilou.”
“She represents all of us,” stated KABALIKAT Co-coordinator Shirley Cayugan-O’Brien. “We believe she is the real victim, not the criminal. We are all victims of a criminally-negligent Labor Export Policy,” she added, saying that Ranario was also a victim of consistent abuse, maltreatment, and forced into indentured servitude by her employer.
The New York-based groups called on the Kuwaiti Court of Cassation ”to strongly consider the united voice of Filipinos worldwide who today are taking the streets in defense of their Filipina sister, and decide not to execute her.”
Appeals at home
The international actions are coordinated with the international day of action spearheaded by the Save Marilou Ranario Movement (SMRM) and Migrante International.
“As Marilou faces the Kuwaiti Supreme Court, she is not alone. Our actions underline the growing national and international support for her case as well as rising indignation over the Arroyo administration’s criminal neglect of it,” aid Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante International Chairperson and SMRM Convenor.
On November 13, the SMRM held a march and rally at Plaza Miranda with members of Marilou’s family and other supporters. Also present in the activity are support groups including GABRIELA, the Promotion of Church People’s Response, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, the Women and Gender Commission (AMRSP), Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and students from different colleges.
Migrante organizations in other provinces also joined the day of protest. Migrante-Metro Baguio released a statement in support of Ranario while in Butuan City, the SMRM-CARAGA Region led a press conference and a dialogue with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration there.
Meanwhile, Migrante International organizations and its network vowed to intensify their actions in behalf of Marilou. “We also pledge to further expose the utter criminal neglect and mishandling of the Arroyo administration of her case,” said Migrante’s Bragas-Regalado. (Bulatlat.com)