“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.” – Migrante International
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Overseas Filipino Worker Rodelio “Dondon” Lanuza is finally home after 13 years in prison and in death row.
“Thank you to the Filipino people and the government for all the support. God knows I did not commit any crime. I am thankful that I am home alive,” Lanuza told reporters.
Lanuza was sentenced to die after he stabbed and killed a Saudi national in self-defense. The Saudi national, according to reports, tried to sexually abuse him.
Last year, the Saudi Reconciliation Committee granted Lanuza’s petition and saved him from execution, but he was asked to produce SAR 3 million ($799,956) in blood money for the victim’s family. He appealed to his fellow Filipinos and to the Philippine government to help him raise the needed amount. His family launched a campaign called, “Barya mo, buhay ko” (Your loose change could save my life).
According to an Interaksyon report, Lanuza was pardoned after Saudi King Abdullah paid for the remaining SAR 2.3 million ($613,299) blood money he needed to pay so he could fly home. His supporters and the Philippine government, on the other hand, were able to raise SAR 700,000 ($186,656).
Vice President Jejomar Binay, who earlier told the media about the Saudi King’s decision, said in reports that it is a rare instance that the king gave millions to save the life of a person sentenced to die.
Lanuza, according to reports, was escorted by two jail officers to the King Fahad International Airport. He arrived in Manila on the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 19.
Migrante International, the country’s biggest OFW group, for its part, said they celebrate the freedom and homecoming of Lanuza.
“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,” Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson, said.
Martinez added that Lanuza’s case is a “testament to the poor legal assistance and welfare services” being provided to Filipino migrant workers. He said that, “if not for our active and unwavering campaigning and lobbying together with his family and friends, the Philippine and Saudi governments would not have given proper attention to Dondon’s case,”
Migrante International said they are confident that Lanuza will continue to help campaign for OFWs in distress.
Martinez said, “There is still much help needed to campaign for the lives of other OFWs on 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 Filipinos in China under the Aquino administration.”