DAMMAN, Saudi Arabia – The freedom and the chance to lead a new life may soon become a reality for Rodelio “Dondon” Celestino Lanuza.
The good news finally reached Lanuza, the overseas Filipino worker who has been in jail since 2000 for killing a Saudi national in an act of self defense.
In a text message to ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau, Lanuza expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the Saudi Arabian government for shouldering the balance of the blood money being asked by the victim’s family.
“Ako po ay lubusang nagagalak sa magandang balitang aking natanggap. Maraming, maraming salamat po una sa Panginoon at Kanyang dininig ang aking taimtim na panalangin. Sa pamilya ng aking nasawi at sa Saudi Government, maraming salamat sa patawad at sa ibinigay na pangalawang pagkakataon na mabuhay muli ng normal at Malaya,” Lanuza said who has been in jail since 2000.
On Thursday, the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Manila stated in a press release that the Saudi government will pay for the remaining balance of SR2.3 million in blood money.
The victim’s family had asked for P32 million in blood money. The Lanuza family was only able to raise SR700,000 or equivalent to P7,700,000.
Vice President Jejomar Binay said the Saudi government’s goodwill gesture has spared Lanuza from execution.
“Ang lahat po ng ito ay hindi magiging posible kung hindi dahil sa pakikipagtulungan ng Phil. Embassy sa Riyadh sa pamumuno ni Amb. Ezzedin Tago; ng Saudi Reconciliation Committee sa pamumuno naman ni Sheikh Ali; sa tulong at walang sawang suporta ni Mrs. Loida Nicolas Lewis; at ng aking butihing magulang na sina Letty at Edilberto Lanuza pati na sa aking buong pamilya na hinding hindi sumuko sa laban para sa aking kalayaan. Maraming salamat po sa inyo,” said Lanuza.
Two years ago, through the effort of the Saudi Reconciliation Committee (February 2011), an amicable settlement was reached between the victim’s family and the accused with the payment of diyya or blood money.
“Nais ko din pong magpasalamat kay former ambassadors Antonio Villamor, Roy Seneres, Grace Rebong, sa ating Vice President Jejomar Binay, kay DFA Sec. Alberto Del Rosario at USec Rafael Seguis at sa libo-libong tao na sumuporta, nagbigay ng tulong at puspusang nagdasal para sa aking kalayaan. Mula po sa kaibuturan ng aking puso, maraming maraming salamat po. Utang ko sa inyo ang buhay ko. Diyos na po ang bahalang gumanti sa inyong kabutihang loob,” he said.
Lewis, a Filipino-American businesswoman and a known philanthropist, was happy with the new development in Lanuza’s case.
She has actively campaigned for Lanuza to the Filipino community in the United States and in the Philippines to raise funds for the blood money. Lewis also thanked the Saudi Government for helping Lanuza.
“Nung marinig ko yung balita mo sa akin, ako’y napaiyak dahil sa halos isang milagro. So pasalamat na pasalamat ako sa Diyos, sa lahat ng tao na tumulong din, na nagpadala ng $20, $50, P100, P500, sa buong mundo, to the Filipinos who helped Dondon. Maligayang pagbalik kay Dondon. He is a free man,” Lewis said in a phone patch interview with ABS-CBN Middle East.
Meanwhile, the Filipino community in Saudi Arabia was all praises to the goodwill shown by the Saudi government to the request of Letty Lanuza, the OFW’s mother.
The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Manila said it was Lanuza’s mother who filed an appeal stating the amount she was able to raise for her son’s blood money. Mrs. Lanuza further appealed to the Saudi Government to help pay the balance of SR2.3 million of the required blood money asked by the victim’s heirs.
“Salamat sa bagong kaganapang ito. Sa tulong ng Saudi Government, isang kababayan natin na OFW ang maliligtas sa kamatayan at yung kakulangan sa nalikom ng Filipino Community dito sa Saudi Arabia, ang Saudi Government ang sasagot,” said Ed Nicdao, founding president of the Cabalen Aguman Capampangan.
Filipino community leader Mary Jane Tupas, a Bagong Bayani 2007 awardee, also thanked the Saudi government for aiding Lanuza.
“Lubos-lubos kaming nagpapasalamat sa Saudi Arabian Government, dahil sa pagtulong nila sa kaso ni Dondon Lanuza, kung saan nagpapatunay na nandoon sila para tumulong sa ating mga Filipino at nadoon ang kanilang pinapakita at pinapahalagahan nila tayo bilang mga Filipino na nagtratrabaho dito sa Saudi Arabia,” she said.
Sir Zane Thrilwall, Regional Commander of the Knights of Rizal said: “The compassion, support and understanding of the Saudi Arabian Government will not be forgotten in this case”.
Lanuza has opened several accounts on social networking sites to appeal for help. After news broke out on Thursday night in Manila, one of Lanuza’s accounts on Facebook was filled with words of encouragement and renewed hope from his many supporters and friends. Report from Raffy Beltran, ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau