KUWAIT CITY - He has been in the Kuwait Central Jail in Sulaibiya for 16 years now, and is the only Filipino serving his sentence in the country for the longest time after being sentenced to life imprisonment for killing a Bangladeshi national in 1996 – a crime which he claimed that he was framed for.
Joseph Urbiztondo tried to appeal for help from some Philippine government officials in the past years but nothing happened.
This time, he is taking another shot to freedom by writing to Vice President Jejomar Binay. He appealed to Binay to help him secure a tanazul (letter of forgiveness) from the victim’s family.
“Dear Sir, ngayon po ay sumulat sa inyo at sa ating pamahalaan at kumakatok sa inyong mabubuting puso na matulungan ninyo po ako,” wrote Urbiztondo in his letter dated June 22, 2012 that was handed to the ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau over the weekend.
Binay is currently the Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers Affairs.
The 41-year-old native of Bacoor, Cavite was arrested by authorities on July 6, 1996, for allegedly killing a Bangladeshi national. He denied the charges, but was later sentenced to 25 years imprisonment by the Kuwaiti Court.
“Ako po ay napagbintangan lamang sa kaso na aking kinakaharap…at ako po ang kauna-unahan na Filipino na tumagal sa bansa sa Kuwait (Central Jail) na ito,” he wrote.
In his letter to Binay, Urbiztondo said he needs a tanazul or a letter of forgiveness from the victim’s family to gain freedom.
However, to obtain the tanazul, he is required to resolve the dia or blood money amounting to KD6,000 (P918,000), as informed by his Kuwaiti lawyer, Ahmad Qurban.
“Yes, he needs KD6,000 for the tanazul and I have already informed the Philippine Embassy about this several years back. Once that amount is secured by the Philippine Embassy, then I can contact the victim’s family through the Bangladeshi Embassy here in Kuwait and we can start the process needed for Joseph’s pardon and release,” explained Qurban.
He also stressed that under the Kuwait law, Urbiztondo is now qualified to apply for an Amiri pardon with the supporting tanazul.
Urbiztondo said when he was arrested and jailed, Philippine Ambassador Shulan Primavera was the head of the Philippine mission here and three more Ambassadors succeeded the post namely Sukarno Tanggol, Bayani Mangibin and Ricardo Endaya. Primavera is back again in Kuwait, however, Urbiztondo lamented that nothing happened.”
“Pang lima at second term niya muli na nakaupo po sa Philippine Embassy si Ambassador Shulan Primavera. Ambasador Shulan Primavera, sana naman po maawa po kayo sa akin sa tagal ko po rito sa kulungan,” he appealed.
Meanwhile, Dalidig Ibrahim Tanandato, the Head of the Assistance to Nationals Unit at the Philippine Embassy said the embassy has never been remiss in its duty in following up the case of Urbiztondo.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs has no budget for the payment of the blood money. But we’re trying to find ways on how to help Urbiztondo,” stressed Tanandato, who also happened to be his case officer in 1996, and now is back in Kuwait for the second time.
He cited that the embassy has included the name of Urbiztondo in the list of Filipino inmates that the Philippine Embassy submitted for Amiri Pardon this year.
“We have written a note verbale addressed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requesting for the issuance of executive clemency or pardon for Urbiztondo, however, he was not among those pardoned this year. We will not stop and we will try our best to help Urbiztondo,” Tanandato said.
Urbiztondo said in his letter that he also asked former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Senator Manuel Villar Jr, for help, but to no avail.
“Lumapit na rin po ang pamilya ko po sa DFA. Ang sabi nila wala silang pondo na nagkakahalaga ng KD 6,000 na hinihingi ko pong tulong sa DFA. Binibigyan nila ng attention at ina-action nila lagi yun death row,” he wrote.
“Minsan naiisip ko mas mabuti pa siguro na hinatulan ako ng bitay, baka mapansin pa ako at matulungan ng ating gobyerno tulad ng ibang nasa death row,” Urbiztondo said during a recent phone interview with ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau.
Urbiztondo is optimistic Binay, who has a soft spot for OFWs, will help him in his case.
“Sir, honorable Vice President Jejomar Binay, Nawa’y liham ko pong ito ay mabasa ninyo po at makalaya sa lalong medaling panahon. Taus-puso po akong nanawagan sana’y matulungan ninyo po ako para sa minimithi ko pong kalayaan.”