May 29, 2006
A FILIPINA maid who pleaded guilty to murdering a compatriot and then chopping up her body was sentenced to 10 years in jail by Singapore's high court on Monday, May 29.
Guen Garlejo Aguilar, 29, was accused of murdering 26-year-old Jane Parangan La Puebla, a fellow Filipina domestic worker, in September and then dumping parts of her dismembered body at several locations around the city-state.
Aguilar narrowly escaped the gallows last month when the court reduced the charges from murder to manslaughter, after Aguilar's lawyers said she was found to be mentally unsound and had killed La Puebla because of a money dispute.
"Her illness did not in any way dispossess her of that ability to distinguish between right and wrong," said High Court Judge V.K. Raja.
"Upon taking all the relevant circumstances, I determine that the appropriate sentence for the accused is a term of imprisonment of 10 years."
Aguilar, wearing an orange prison suit, was expressionless when the sentence was read out. Her husband and sister were in the court along with Philippine embassy officials and the mayor of her hometown.
"We are happy with the sentencing. Earlier there were some concerns that she might get a life sentence, so this is a huge relief for Guen,"
Aguilar's lawyer Sashi Nathan told reporters.
La Puebla's head and limbs were found stashed inside a sports bag behind a subway station on Singapore's Orchard Road, home to luxury boutiques and large department stores. Hours later, the torso of a woman dressed only in underwear was found in a trolley bag at one of the country's popular nature parks.
Grisly murders are rare in Singapore, which has one of the world's lowest crime rates and some of its toughest laws, and penalties that include caning and death by hanging.
Aguilar's case echoes that of Filipina maid Flor Contemplacion who was hanged at Singapore's Changi Prison in 1995 for the murder of fellow Filipina Delia Maga and her 4-year-old Singaporean son.
Contemplacion's execution sparked a bitter diplomatic rift between Manila and Singapore, with Filipinos protesting in both countries and blaming their governments for not doing enough to prevent the abuse and stress that many Filipina maids suffer.
About 150,000 women -- mainly from Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka -- work as maids in Singapore, with roughly one in every seven households employing a live-in domestic helper so that couples can work and raise families.