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Subject: The case of brothers Rolando Gonzales, Edison Gonzales and Eduardo Arcilla
OFWs on Death Row
Country: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Period: 2nd Quarter 2008
Date: 01 July 2008
Time: 10:00am
Place: #63 Narra St., Brgy. Claro, Proj. 3, Quezon City
Contact person: Connie Bragas-Regalado, chairperson
Tel. no: 427-0768: CP#0927-2157392

A. Introduction

Saudi Arabia is home to more than 900,000 overseas Filipino workers. In fact, this is the number one country
of destination to most Filipinos, whether professionals, skilled and unskilled workers for overseas employment
since the 70s.

OFWs facing death penalty

More than three decades later, the stories of exploitation and abuse of overseas Filipino workers still continue
and worst, aggravating in many parts of the world. Close to 5,000 overseas Filipinos are imprisoned in foreign
jails. Quite alarming are cases of OFWs on death row especially in Saudi Arabia, which according to the
Department of Foreign Affairs has 14 cases.

Record shows that among the reported cases of executions of overseas Filipino workers include: Flor
Contemplacion, (Singapore, hanged last 17 March 1995); Orlando Lorenzo (KSA, beheaded 25 October1999);
Mario Biruna (KSA, beheaded May 2000); Miguel Fernandez (KSA, beheaded March 2005), Wilfredo Bautista
(KSA, beheaded March 2005); Antonio Alvesa (KSA, beheaded March 2005); Sergio Aldana (KSA, beheaded
March 2005). It was also in 2007 that Reynaldo Cortez who was convicted for the crime of murder of a Pakistani
driver who attempted to rape him, was beheaded in June 13, Saudi Arabia. He was first sentenced to 15 years of
imprisonment, further commuted to 10 years after an appeal, then later sentenced to die by beheading.

Per Migrante’s record, the plight of overseas Filipino workers in death row continue to escalate reaching 35
cases in 2007 according to the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs of the Department of
Foreign Affairs. Women are not spared either. Marilou Ranario and May Vecina were sentenced to die in Saudi
Arabia and Kuwait respectively, although Marilou Ranario’s sentence was commuted last 10 December 2007
after Migrante and the international community put pressure through picket-rallies, petition signing and
intervention on Kuwait and Philippine governments to spare her from death. On the other hand, the Kuwait’s
Court of Cassation upheld the death penalty for May Vecina. Please refer to attached document.

In 2007, Saudi Arabia has one of the highest records of execution in the world, especially when considered as a
proportion of the population according to Amman Center for Human Rights Report in 2008.

Crimes punishable by beheading in Saudi Arabia include not only murder and rape but also highway robbery,
sabotage, adultery, homosexuality, drug trafficking and witchcraft.

It is estimated that two-thirds of people executed in Saudi Arabia are foreigners and there are reports that many
do not know the sentences given to them, that people are signing confessions not knowing what they are signing
and persons are being executed without warning. There are also reports of people being executed for crimes
such as witchcraft, which have no basis in law and are implausible in court.

It has been estimated that there were 147 executions in 2007, four times as many as in 2006. In the first three
months of 2008, there have reportedly been 10 death sentences and 21 people executed.

Reynaldo Cortez, convicted of killing a Pakistani driver who attempted to rape him was executed last 13 June

B. What has the Philippine Government’s Response to the plight of those on death row?

1. Tanazul and Blood Money

The Philippine government’s immediate responses are to facilitate and negotiate for a “tanazul” (letter of
forgiveness) and blood money.

2. Bilateral Agreement and RA8042

The governments of the Philippines and Saudi Arabia have not entered in any bilateral labor agreement. The
government of Saudi Arabia is not a signatory to the 1990 UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of
Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

Amnesty International is particularly concerned that these people may be at risk of execution after trials which
do not comply with internationally recognised standards for fair trial, such as Article 14 of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and resolution 1984/50 adopted by the Economic and Social
Council, on the Safeguards guaranteeing the protection of those facing the death penalty. Although Saudi Arabia
acceded to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or
Punishment in 1997, confessions obtained under duress, torture or by deception are sometimes admitted in

Republic Act No. 8942 (RA8042) known as the Magna Carta for Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 on the other
hand is a failure. Repatriation Bond and Legal Assistance Fund created by RA8042 failed to respond to many
cases needing repatriation and legal assistance.

Others include sending letter of appeal to the King of Saudi Arabia and press releases.

Despite the absence of protection mechanism for overseas Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia, the Philippine
government continues to deploy Filipinos. This is government’s adulterated criminal negligence.

C. Case of Gonzaleses and Arcilla

Brothers Rolando Gonzales and Edison Gonzales and Eduardo Arcilla were convicted for the crime of
murder of the alleged killing of fellow Filipinos Romeo Lumbang, Jeremias Bucud and Dante Rivero, sentenced
to death by beheading, while co-accused Joel Sinamban, Wilson ‘Omar’ Basilio, Victor Alfonso and Efren
Dimaun of the same conviction, were sentenced to 8 years of imprisonment and 1,000 lashes each.

All seven OFWs are from Pandacaqui, Mexico Pampanga and the victims are from Arayat, Pampanga.

1. Case background:

The following information gathered was based on the phone interview made by the staff of Migrante
International last 07 September 2007 which started at 07:46am, 08 September 2007, 09:26am and regular
updates through texts by the OFWs directly or through their families.

Rolando Gonzales has worked as driver for barely four months before his arrest. This is his first overseas
employment. He is 47 years old, married and children ages 20, 28 and 2 ½ years.

On 06 April 2006, he went to his brother’s house, Edison Gonzales to pick up “lumpiang shanghai” to sell.
Policemen came and along with Victor Alfonso and Eduardo Arcilla, were brought to an investigation
department (just like National Bureau of Investigation) for investigation. Upon arrival, they saw an interpreter.
In the course of the interrogation, they denied committing the crime. Then, the torture started. Unable to bear
the torture, he was forced to admit the crime he did not commit. He was told by the Filipino interpreter, that if
he will admit the crime, they will be released.

Edison Gonzales had been working in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for 24 years and has not come back home for 13
years before his arrest in April 8, 2006. He is 49 years old, married with 3 children ages 22, 20 and 17 years.

On 08 April 2006, he received a call from his employer asking him to report to the office for some talks the
following day. So that on 09 April 2006, 9:00am, when he arrived at his office, he saw a man who invited him
to go with him at the investigation headquarters. He was asked of his name and his job. He was also asked of
his residence certificate. There he learned of the crime which took place on 26 March 2006.

He was brought to a room and was told that he was identified by Efren Dimaun, Joel Sinamban, Victor Alfonso
and Wilson ‘Omar’ Basilio, also his colleagues at work and ‘kababayans.’ He denied the crime. That was when
the torture started. He was badly beaten and slapped. He was not allowed of visitors and to communicate to his
family. He was hanged upside down in the stairs, beat his soles until swollen and bleeding. He was made to
sleep in the cement floor. After three hours, the torture started again and forced him to admit the crime, which
he denied.

The first hearing was 14 May 2006 without a representation from the Philippine Embassy and no legal

On the second hearing on 23 July 2007, again there was no representation from the Philippine Embassy. The
death sentence was read to them. All of the seven were detained in one building.

Eduardo Arcilla

He was arrested on 08 April 2006, 9:30pm, along with Rolando Gonzales and Victor Alfonso. Victor was
accosted by the police when he climbed up the stairs towards Rolando’s house to pick up ‘lumpiang shanghai’
to sell.
Around 10:30pm, his name was called and was brought to the investigation room. A Muslim-Filipino
interpreter was around. During the interrogation, he learned that he was one of the suspects for the killing of
Romeo Lumbang, Jeremias Bucud and Dante Rivero. He denied having committed the crime.

In the course of the interrogation, Eduardo recounted that he was kicked real hard by his Filipino interpreter
Saliq Saimubin when he vehemently denied committing the crime.

2. Recent development of the case:

It was learned from the sister of Gonzales brothers that they are not informed of the developments by the
Department of Foreign Affairs. They only learned it from Rolando and Edison.

As per conversation with Mr. Cresencio R. Relacion, Executive Director of the Office of the Undersecretary for
Migrant Workers Affairs of the Department of Foreign Affairs today, 30 June 2008, the Post in Jeddah sent a
communication that the case is now at the Appellate Court. The case was remanded for clarification at the
Lower Court. According to Mr. Relacion, they are still waiting for a clarification what is meant by two-week
extension as mentioned by the family.

3. Migrante’s plan of action:

Together with the family, Migrante International takes the following action:

a. dialogue with OUMWA-DFA on the developments of the case;

b. coordinate with Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and Sen. Manny Villar on possible intervention of the case;
c. write World Coalition against the Death Penalty and Amnesty International and other human rights
organizations for international public support;
d. enjoin the International Migrant Alliance to support the campaign;
e. e-petition signing (global), and;
f. seek support from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants for possible
intervention and urgent action.