MANILA, Philippines (AP) – The ruler of Kuwait has pardoned a Filipino maid who was convicted of murdering her employer’s 7-year- old son, and she will soon be allowed to return home to her family, the Philippine vice president said Thursday.
A Kuwaiti court convicted May Vecina of slitting the throat of 7-year-old Salem al-Otaibi 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.
Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah commuted Vecina’s death sentence to life in jail last year, and he has recently pardoned her, Vice President Noli de Castro said in a statement.
The pardon was signed June 1, said Ed Malaya, 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,” de Castro said, adding that Vecina will soon be heading home to be reunited with her family.
Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo also thanked Kuwait’s leader for his “magnanimity and compassion.”
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, and the Philippine ambassador to Kuwait, Ricardo Endaya, said she was expected in Manila in the next few days.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo traveled to Kuwait in 2007 to plea for the life of another maid on death row, whose murder conviction was also commuted to life in prison.
More than 500,000 domestic helpers from Asian countries work in Kuwait, and often complain of nonpayment of salaries and physical abuse.
Nearly 10 percent of 90 million Filipinos work abroad, many as nurses, maids, engineers, construction workers and seamen. Last year, overseas Filipinos sent home $16.4 billion, or 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, fueling domestic consumption that is a lynchpin of the economy.