MALAYA: Meeting with Kuwait emir hangs; trip scrubbed

Dec. 7, 2007

PRESIDENT Arroyo’s visit to Kuwait next week for a possible meeting with Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah has been shelved, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said late Wednesday.

The President was scheduled to make a side trip to Kuwait on December 10 before returning to Manila Monday from an eight-day European trip to personally appeal to the Emir for the commutation of the death sentence of overseas Filipino worker Marilou Ranario.

“Not pushing through,” Bunye said in a text message.

The Kuwait high court last month affirmed the death sentence on Ranario, 35, on charges she killed her employer.

The sentence is reportedly to be carried out in February.

Bunye said the President tried to contact the Emir by phone but failed to get in touch with him. She then planned to send a letter to be hand-carried by Vice President Noli de Castro who went to Kuwait late last month but decided against it and instead ordered the foreign affairs department to arrange the trip.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita hinted Wednesday the Emir would not be available on December 10. He also said there was no sense for the President to go to Kuwait if she would not be able to personally appeal for clemency for Ranario.

He said as of Wednesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs had no word on the availability of the Emir.

Migrante International said Arroyo and De Castro’s statements that they will use all diplomatic means to save Ranario were “obviously just hot air meant to cover up their neglectful stance from the very start.”

“Obviously, the Arroyo government is just making do with last-ditch PR spin because the President did not lift a finger as soon as Ranario was arrested and detained in 2005,” said Maita Santiago, Migrante secretary general.

Santiago said government “wasted precious time” from Jan. 11, 2005 when the crime allegedly happened and when Ranario surrendered to authorities until April 2005, “the very first time the Department of Foreign Affairs provided her with defense attorneys.”

“That period between January and April 2005 was the pre-trial and investigation stage, and the Arroyo government left Ranario to fend for herself,” said Santiago. “It was thus no surprise that by September 2005, the lower court convicted her.”

Santiago also noted that De Castro, in a press conference last November 27, announced he was ready to kneel and beg for mercy in front of the Emir just to save Ranario.

“Days prior to this, De Castro boldly predicted that the Kuwaiti court will lower the sentence against Ranario and spare her from hanging,” Santiago said.

“We are disgusted by what the government is doing and not doing just to cover up a clear pattern of official neglect,” Santiago said.

“There is apparently no concrete action plan to save Ranario and about 30 other OFWs who have been sentenced to die in various countries,” she added.

Arroyo is in London. She arrived Wednesday midnight (Thursday in Manila) from Spain.

She was scheduled to meet 8 p.m. (Manila time) with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

Arroyo, in a meeting earlier with the Filipino community in London, said she will tell Queen Elizabeth about the achievements of Filipinos in London, like nurses and chefs.

She also told overseas Filipino workers to strengthen their financial freedom while government tries to mitigate the impact of the rising peso on their families’ incomes.

She said the OFWs should channel their savings into investments in the Philippines such as education and health care, real property, small and medium enterprises, and the stock market.

Arroyo is expected to arrive around 5:10 p.m. Monday. – With Anthony Ian Cruz and Regina Bengco

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