“The government’s failure in the early stages of the trial to provide Pawa with a lawyer made an unfavorable verdict possible.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – For over eight years, OFW Jakatia Pawa maintained that she was innocent. There was no evidence also that she had killed her employer’s daughter in Kuwait.
A domestic helper from Zamboanga City, Pawa had worked for five years in Kuwait when she was accused, in 2007, and convicted in the murder of her employer’s 22-year old daughter. She was sentenced to death in April 2008; the verdict was upheld in 2013. Despite Pawa’s assertion of her innocence, she was hanged in Kuwait today, January 25. She herself reportedly informed her family of her imminent death through a phone call the day before. Her last request was for the family to take care of her two children.
In a statement, the OFW group Migrante demanded an investigation of “neglectful” officials and changes in government policy.
Migrante’s digging into Pawa’s case revealed that there was indeed little to no evidence linking Pawa to the crime. Migrante shared that the knife used to stab the victim more than 20 times bore no fingerprints of Pawa. Neither did Pawa’s dress, or any part of her body, exhibit bloodstains of the victim.
“The government’s failure in the early stages of the trial to provide Pawa with a lawyer made an unfavorable verdict possible,” said Mic Catuira, acting secretary general of Migrante International.
Migrante said the Philippine government’s policy on handling cases involving OFWs all but leave these OFWs undefended especially at the most crucial moments such as at the start of their cases. In Pawa’s case, the Philippine government’s action had mostly been last-ditch.
Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said in a press briefing Wednesday, January 25, that the government “did everything” to spare Pawa from death row. However, the details of “everything” he mentioned are mostly last-ditch efforts made by the embassy, such as making representations with the Office of the Ameer, calling early in that morning of the hanging the Charge d’ Affaires of the Kuwaiti embassy in Manila, and hoping “up to the last minute” that the victim’s family will accept the blood money.
“Justice must be served, heads must roll! We are calling on President Duterte to investigate the case and remove from their posts all the officials who neglected to do their jobs,” said Catuira.
Migrante challenged President Duterte to immediately call for a review of RA 8042 as amended by RA 10022, saying it does not guarantee the welfare and security of overseas Filipino workers as shown in the case of OFW Pawa.
Aside from Pawa, almost 100 other OFWs are currently on death row in various countries and more than 9,000 are in jail. Migrante said many of these OFWs did not receive legal assistance from the Philippine government.
A longer term solution that President Duterte could take, one that could save the OFWs from the perils of forced migration, said Migrante, is deviating from the four-decade-old labor export policy and focusing instead on creating decent and sustainable local jobs for its citizens.
The proposal is echoed by the Gabriela Women’s Party, which also expressed deep condolences to the Pawa family.
“Her execution is a grim reminder of the price of the government’s labor export policy, which vulnerable migrant Filipino workers have to pay,” said Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus.
She expressed hopes that Pawa’s death could serve as a wake-up call to President Duterte so he would fulfill his promise of creating sufficient jobs in the country. Only this could lessen if not remove the compulsion to find jobs abroad, both the Migrante and Gabriela Party said.
De Jesus reiterated also their call to both the Philippine government and National Democratic Front of the Philippines. She urged the two parties to forge a deal on comprehensive social and economic reforms that will generate enough jobs for Filipinos through genuine land reform and national industrialization.