x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Filipino maid pardoned in murder case

The ruler of Kuwait pardons a Filipino maid convicted of murdering her employer's seven-year-old son with a kitchen knife.

MANILA, PHILIPPINES // The ruler of Kuwait has pardoned a Filipino maid who was convicted of murdering her employer's seven-year-old son. She will soon be allowed to return home to her family, the Philippine vice president said today. A Kuwaiti court convicted May Vecina of slitting the throat of Salem al-Otaibi, aged seven, with a kitchen knife in January 2007. She was also found guilty of attempting to murder the boy's 11-year-old brother and 18-year-old sister, who both survived.

Her lawyer said she was "temporarily insane" because of the employer's alleged mistreatment. Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah reduced Ms Vecina's death sentence to life in jail last year, and he recently pardoned her, the vice president Noli de Castro said in a statement. The pardon was signed on June 1, said Ed Malaya, a spokesman for the foreign affairs department. "I thank the Filipino people for their prayers and we are very grateful to the Kuwaiti government and the Emir for his compassion," Mr de Castro said, adding that Ms Vecina will soon be heading home to be reunited with her family.

The foreign secretary Alberto Romulo also thanked Kuwait's leader for his "magnanimity and compassion". Ms Vecina was sentenced to death by a criminal court in July 2007, and Kuwait's highest appeals court upheld the sentence nine months later, but the emir commuted her sentence to life in prison last year. The pardon means she is free to leave Kuwait. The Philippine ambassador to Kuwait, Ricardo Endaya, said she was expected in Manila in the next few days. The president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, travelled to Kuwait in 2007 to plea for the life of another maid on death row, whose murder conviction was also reduced to life in prison.

More than 500,000 domestic helpers from Asian countries work in Kuwait, and often complain of non-payment of salaries and physical abuse. Nearly 10 per cent of 90 million Filipinos work abroad - many as nurses, maids, engineers, construction workers and seamen. Last year, overseas Filipinos sent home US$16.4 billion (about Dh60bn), or 10 per cent of the country's gross domestic product. * AP