By Ma. Teresa Montemayor
MANILA – A Kuwaiti court on Thursday convicted the teen killer of overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Jullebee Ranara for murder and driving without a license.
In a statement late Thursday night, the Department of Foreign Affairs said the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait reported that Ranara’s killer has been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for murder and one year for driving without license.
“The lesser penalties were due to the accused’s being a minor. He has 30 days to appeal the judgment to the Court of First Instance,” the DFA said.
“The family of the OFW has been informed and is grateful for the assistance provided them by the government.”
Ranara is a 35-year-old household worker whose burnt body was found in a desert in Kuwait in January.
Her killer was the 17-year-old son of her employer who was arrested within 24 hours of the discovery of her burnt body and has confessed to the crime.
“The Philippine government acknowledges the efforts undertaken by the Kuwaiti authorities to effect a speedy resolution of the case, in the pursuit of justice for our slain kababayan (compatriot),” the DFA said.
In a televised public briefing Friday, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega said the agency has relayed to Ranara’s kin the Kuwaiti court’s sentence for the teen killer.
He said Ranara’s sister was happy that the killer was brought to justice but the mother was initially expecting a life imprisonment sentence.
“Pero nung napaliwanag na hindi naman na abswelto at saka may hustisya, kunwari, tayo mismo sa ating batas ay exempted ‘yung mga menor de edad sa criminal liability as a general rule, so naiintindihan po nila at saka ngayon hinihintay nila kung ano man ‘yung moral damages (When it was explained that the killer wasn’t acquitted and there was justice, for example, in our laws, minors are exempted from criminal liability as a general rule, so they understood and now awaiting for moral damages),” he added.
Apart from monitoring the case, the DFA had been paying for Ranara’s lawyer from January to July.
The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) has assumed financial responsibility for the lawyers from then on and assured free education for Ranara’s children.
Ranara’s family has not received any compensation from her previous employer.
De Vega said all the benefits they have received are from President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., the DMW, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and other government officials.
He said blood money is not applicable since the verdict on the killer is not the death penalty.
Nonetheless, there will be moral or compensatory damages and the amount to be paid by the accused will be indicated in the court’s decision and final report.
Meanwhile, the chairperson of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs welcomed the development, and lauded the Kuwaiti government for their “swift delivery of justice” for Ranara.
“This is a significant milestone for justice and accountability. I commend the Kuwaiti courts for their commitment in upholding the rule of law and ensuring that justice prevails. This verdict sends a clear message that crimes against our Filipino migrant workers will not go unpunished,” Kabayan Partylist Rep. Ron Salo said in a press statement.
The lawmaker however emphasized that while this verdict is a positive step, we must remain steadfast in our efforts to create safer and more secure working conditions for our OFWs abroad. (With a report from Zaldy De Layola/PNA)