After nearly 11 years, an overseas Filipino worker has finally been saved from death row in Saudi Arabia, after the Saudi government agreed to pay SR2.3 million (about P24.9 million) in blood money sought by his victim’s kin.
On Friday, Vice President Jejomar Binay said the amount is the balance of the SR3 million sought by relatives of the victim of OFW Rodelio “Dondon” Lanuza.
“Ito po ay dahil sa kagandahang loob ng hari ng Saudi Arabia na si King Abdullah na naglabas ng isang royal directive kung saan sasagutin ng Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ang balanse ng blood money na hinihingi ng pamilya ng napatay ni Dondon,” Binay, who is also presidential adviser on OFW concerns, said on his Facebook account
“And on behalf of President (Benigno III) Aquino, we would like to express our most sincere thanks to His Excellency King Abdullah for his gesture of kindness. This gesture once again affirms the strong ties of friendship and brotherhood between the Philippines and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he added.
He noted Lanuza’s family had raised SR700,000 (P7.5 million) in blood money.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario lauded the efforts of Binay and Filipino-American businesswoman Loida Nicolas Lewis for their efforts in addressing the case of Lanuza.
“This positive development is a result of the tireless effort and steadfast commitment of Filipinos working together. We hope that as soon as all legal procedures are completed, Mr. Lanuza will finally be reunited with his family,” Del Rosario said.
Lanuza had been languishing in jail since 2000 for the killing of Saudi national Mohammad bin Said Al-Qathani.
A report on Arab News said Lanuza worked in Saudi Arabia in 1996 as a draftsman. He admitted having stabbed Al-Qathani but said it was due to self-defense.
Binay also sought understanding for the government’s silence on the matter before Friday’s announcement, saying Lanuza’s case was very sensitive.
He also disclosed that since he was appointed presidential adviser on OFW concerns, he would always follow up Lanuza’s case when he visited Saudi Arabia.
“Dito man sa Pilipinas, sa bawat pagkakataon na magkita kami ng ambassador ng Saudi Arabia ay lagi naming napag-uusapan ang kaso ni Dondon at kung ano ang maaaring maging solusyon,” he said.
“We would like to personally thank Ambassador Abdullah Al-Hassan for his involvement in our collective effort to secure the release of Dondon Lanuza. He has worked as tirelessly as those of us in the Philippine government,” he added.
Binay also thanked the Philippine Embasssy in Riyadh under Ambassador Ezzedin Tago for its efforts to secure Lanuza’s release.
Binay posted an image of a news release from the Saudi Embassy in Manila that King Abdullah issued a royal directive for paying the balance of SR2.3 million, “for handing over to the heirs of the victim through the concerned court.”
In the release, the embassy said Lanuza’s mother appealed that the balance be shouldered by the Saudi government.
The Saudi government has paid the balance of the blood money, “after the heirs of the victim waived their right,” the embassy added.
It said the royal goodwill gesture stemmed from the efforts of the Saudi Embassy in Manila and the Office of the Vice President.
Pinoys in Saudi thankful
In Riyadh, Arab News reported Filipino expatriates expressed gratitude for the Saudi government’s gesture to assume the balance of the blood money.
“We thank Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and may the Almighty keep him in good health always so that he could continue extending humanitarian acts not only to Filipinos but other nationals as well,” Ambassador Ezzedin Tago told Arab News.
Tago added that the process to expedite the release of Lanuza will be started as soon as the Saudi government has deposited the amount.
DFA to work for release soonest
Arab News said the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) welcomed the news and expressed gratitude for the humanitarian gesture of the Saudi government.
DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez was quoted as saying this will “pave the way for the issuance of an affidavit of forgiveness or tanazul in Mr. Lanuza’s favor.”
“We hope that as soon as all legal procedures are completed, Mr. Lanuza will finally be reunited with his family,” he added.
Two years ago, in February 2011, the Philippine government and the Saudi Reconciliation Committee in Dammam assisted Lanuza in seeking forgiveness from the victim’s family.
6 more OFWs on Saudi death row
“We will continue to appeal to spare the lives of other Filipinos on Saudi death row. On our monitoring, there are about six of them aside from Dondon,” Migrante Middle East said.
“Our ‘Save OFWs on death row’ campaign will not end upon Dondon Lanuza’s eventual release. We will intensify our efforts until no OFWs are on death row in Saudi Arabia. Like most OFWs, they too were victims of forced migration,” it added. — with Michaela del Callar/KG/RSJ, GMA News