Feb 012013

Rodelio Celestino Lanuza. FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Vice President Jejomar Binay and Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario on Friday expressed the Philippine government’s gratitude to Saudi King Abdullah for donating the P24.9-million balance for the “blood money” needed for the release of Filipino death convict Rodelio “Dondon” Lanuza.

“I’m happy to relate that our compatriot has been saved from the execution. This is because of the kindness of King Abdullah,” Binay, concurrent presidential adviser of OFW affairs, said.

In a press conference at the Coconut Palace, the Vice President’s official residence, Binay said the government had been quietly working for the release of Lanuza, who was sentenced to death in 2000 in Damman, Saudi Arabia for killing a Saudi national. Lanuza claimed it was an act of self-defense.

The Vice President said the King’s gesture of goodwill “once again affirms the strong ties of friendship and brotherhood between the Philippines and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs said the Saudi government’s “humanitarian gesture” would pave the way for the issuance of the affidavit of forgiveness (tanazul) in Lanuza’s favor, thus formally saving him from execution.

“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 in a statement.

Del Rosario did not forget to thank Filipino-American philanthropist Loida Nicolas-Lewis, the person who led the private sector’s fund-raising efforts for the blood money, and all kindhearted individuals from around the world who donated various amounts to save Lanuza.

Early last month, an encouraging twist in Lanuza’s campaign came when a bank account to accept donations for Lanuza was opened by the Emir of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Region. The region’s Emir was until recently Prince Mohammed Bin Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz. The position was passed last January to Prince Saud Bin Naif Bin Abdul Aziz.

The opening of the Emir’s account, co-managed by the Saudi Reconciliation Committee in Dammam, paved the way for a public fund raising campaign in the Saudi Kingdom.

At the start of this year, however, Lewis and Lanuza’s mother counted just over 700,000 riyals, including pledges from the Philippine government.

On Thursday, the Saudi embassy in Manila announced that by virtue of a royal directive, the King had offered to pay the remaining balance.

Philippine ambassador to Riyadh Ezzedin Tago, who was with Binay at the Coconut Palace, said Lanuza only needed the Saudi court to order his release upon confirmation that the victim’s family had received the blood money.

In the past years, Lanuza had opened up to four Facebook accounts to plead for help in raising his blood money. In his post last week, he expressed worry that the suspension of his execution was approaching its second anniversary this month and the blood money was still incomplete.

The Vice President apologized for being elusive in the past year on the status of Lanuza’s case. He said that he had always asked checked on the status of Lanuza’s case in all his previous visits to Saudi Arabia.

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