By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – An overseas Filipino worker who is in the death row will be released from prison. Rodelio Dondon Lanuza, 39, was granted freedom by the Saudi Reconciliation Committee (SRC) after his family and supporters raised the blood money or “diya” amounting to 35-million needed to pay the family of his victim.
Lanuza was jailed in 2000 when he unintentionally killed a Saudi national in self-defense after the latter tried to sexually abuse him. According to Migrante International, the family of Lanuza’s victim had forgiven him but they had to raise blood money in exchange for his freedom.
(Bulatlat file photo / bulatlat.com)
Even if in jail, Lanuza did not lose hope and continued his appeal to the Saudi and Philippine governments to help him raise the blood money. His family also launched a campaign called “Barya mo, buhay ko” (Share your loose change, for my life) to gather funds for Lanuza’s blood money.
He also appealed to his fellow Filipinos, as well as then Senator Mar Roxas and Sen. Jinggoy Estrada for assistance for his two children’s education.
Meanwhile, migrant groups celebrated upon receiving news of Lanuza’s release.
“We are very happy for Dondon and the Lanuza family. All our efforts have not been in vain, and we attribute this mainly to Dondon’s fighting spirit and the collective efforts of friends, supporters and family. If not for these, the Philippine and Saudi governments would not have given proper attention to Dondon’s case,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.
Migrante Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona also said, “We would like to convey our gratitude to fellow OFWs and Filipinos all around the world who have joined our campaign ‘Save Don Lanuza’ and who never questioned our noble intentions in asking for financial support for the required blood money to secure the aggrieved family’s forgiveness leading to Lanuza’s eventual release from prison upon completion of the required blood money amount.”
Monterona said he is now in contact with Lanuza to get the details of his release. “Once it is available and we get clearance from the concerned authorities we will share the details to our fellow concerned OFWs and supporters.”
Lanuza will be welcomed by Migrante International when he comes home in the Philippines, Martinez added.
Meanwhile, Lanuza also thanked all the parties who helped him and his family during his incarceration.
“When one’s foot is in the grave, he is left with despair, fear and hopelessness. The knowledge that one’s life will be snuffed out in an instant has been haunting me all throughout.”
“I have been in this dire situation for the past few years and the flame of hope was about to be extinguished, yet people from all walks of life have encouraged me to continue my plight and for that I am truly grateful.”
“I am forever in the debt of such fine and noble people and the Filipino community for helping me realize my dream to finally be with my family and to become a productive member once again of society.”
“Humbled, let me express once again my sincerest and utmost gratitude to everyone.” Lanuza said in a letter, a copy of which was also sent to Bulatlat.com.
More OFWs in death row
Meanwhile, the migrant group also stressed that there are still OFWs in death row aside from Lanuza. According to Monterona, as per Migrante-Middle East monitoring, there are about eight OFWs languishing in various jails in the Middle East. Six of them were sentenced to death and four are facing possible death sentence upon conviction on various criminal offenses.
“There is still much help needed to campaign for the lives of other OFWs in death row. Dondon’s experience and story will serve as an inspiration to our kababayans who have been losing hope, especially after the execution of three Filipinos in China last year,” Martinez added citing the cases of the Gonzalez brothers, Rolando and Edison, and Eduardo Arcilla who who were sentenced to death by beheading in Saudi Arabia last 2006 for the murder of fellow Filipinos Romeo Lumbang, Jeremias Bucud and Dante Rivero.
According to reports, the Gonzalez’ brothers and Arcilla said they were “tortured” to admit to the crime.
According to Migrante, the relatives of the victims already received blood money from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) last 2010. However, according to Saudi laws, payment of blood money does not ensure release or commutation of the sentence of thethree OFWs.
“It is really up to the lobbying efforts of the Philippines government, especially since the victims’ families are based in the Philippines. What the government needs to do is to present a letter of forgiveness from the families to the SRC to facilitate the processing of their cases, like in Dondon’s case,” Martinez said.
According to Migrante International’s data there are currently 122 Filipinos on death row abroad. The group handles cases of eight of them, including Lanuza.
“In our efforts to save the lives of OFWs on death row, we will continue our ‘Save OFWs on death row’ campaign until we collectively save their lives from execution. The OFWs on death row, like most of the OFWs, were victims of forced migration prompting them to accept jobs abroad even if there is no guarantee of their safety and protection,” Monterona added.