MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A Filipino sentenced to death for killing a Saudi national has been spared from execution after the Saudi Arabian government agreed to pay the P24.9 million balance in "blood money" asked by the victim's heirs.
Vice-President Jejomar Binay said the Saudi government's goodwill gesture spared the life of Rodelio “Dondon” Celestino Lanuza who was sentenced to death by beheading for killing Saudi national Mohammad bin Said Al-Qathani in self defense.
The 38-year-old OFW has been in jail since 2000.
"He's already spared from that penalty of being beheaded. We received a message from the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia. All efforts were directed to sparring him from that penalty and that's the good news," Binay said.
The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia said in a press release that the Saudi government will shoulder the remaining balance of SR2.3 million in blood money that was asked by the family of the victim.
“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," said Binay.
Binay said the victim's family demanded P32 million in blood money. He said Lanuza's family was able to raise SR700,000 which is equivalent to P7,500,000.
The Vice President expressed his gratitude to King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. He 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."
Binay, who is also the Presidential Adviser on OFW Affairs, also cited the efforts made by embassy officials in the Kingdom and nongovernment organizations who continue to follow up Lanuza’s case.
He likewise thanked Saudi Ambassador Abdullah Al-Hassan for his involvement in the collective effort to secure the release of Lanuza, saying "he has worked as tirelessly as those of us in the Philippine government."
Binay said they have been asked by the Saudi Embassy to inform the family of Lanuza of the good news.
“That's one request of the embassy for us to look for the family of Dondon Lanuza to inform them of the good news. I gave instructions na to my staff yesterday,” he said.
For his part, Lanuza thanked the Saudi government and the King and the victim’s family for giving him another chance to live. He was likewise grateful to the support and prayers of people who have helped him through the years.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Ezzedin Tago, the Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said Lanuza only needs for the Saudi court to order for his release.
“It’s just a process that we have to follow up in court and the authorities to ensure that the process is done quickly,” Tago said.