OFW Lanuza Still In Jail; Fundraising For His Release Goes On

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (jGLi) – While there was a flurry of news recently, announcing that overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Rodelio “Dondon” Lanuza is being spared from getting beheaded, members of U.S. Pinoys For Good Government (USP4GG) are still on course to raise blood money (diya) that would be given to the surviving family of Lanuza’s victim.

Marlon L. Pecson, a member of USP4GG in Chicago, Illinois, said, “Let’s continue to have faith in God as we here in American and the Global Filipinos are deeply concerned and sympathetic to the horrors and sufferings Lanuza and others languishing in death row are going thru.”

The forgiveness (tanazul) given to Lanuza by the victim’s survivors was expressed in February of last year but in press release dished out by Migrante Middle East last week, it appears the forgiveness was only given last week.

As a condition of forgiveness, the surviving family is willing to accept 3 million Saudi Riyales or 34-million pesos (US$800,000) blood money that Lanuza’s family and supporters would have to raise.

So far, only about 21% of the US$800,000 has been raised. According to sources, Philippine supporters have collected P1,200,000 (US$28,571); USP4GG, $18,000; Saudi Arabian Filipinos, P400,000 ($9,523) and the Philippine Government, P4,600,000 ($109,523).

“It’s still a long ways to go,” Pecson said, telling his fellow USP4GG members to “please be reminded that we are very mindful of his (Lanuza’s) plight and we share equally his desire for justice and his eventual freedom.

“Thru the leadership of philanthropic and energetic USP4GG Chairperson Loida Nicolas Lewis, who has always been aware of his status as she is in constant communication with Dondon Lanuza, Ms. Lewis is planning to join a special delegation to meet with the Emir of Saudi Arabia to follow up Dondon’s forgiveness by the family and Dondon’s eventual release from jail.”

LEWIS PRESSES PH OFFICIAL TO FOLLOW UP THE CASE

Ms. Lewis also requested the Philippine Embassy official in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to intervene and exert appropriate representation on behalf of the Department of Foreign Affairs to follow up the case.

Attorney Lewis is also coordinating with Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ezzedin Tago to have an audience with the Emir of Saudi Arabia.

According to press reports, after receiving media reports on the matter, Ambassador Tago confirmed from the representative of the victim’s heirs that they have not yet received the blood money settlement nor did they submit their tanazul or affidavit of forgiveness and desistance to the court.

The statement by Migrante Middle East that “the formal acceptance of the aggrieved family spared Lanuza’s life” is premature, the Embassy said.

It also belied the claim that “a reconciliation team led by former Ambassador Antonio Villamor was responsible in convincing the aggrieved family to formally accept the blood money.”

Ambassador Tago likewise clarified that the victim’s heirs signified their willingness to accept blood money as early as February 27, 2011.

With the efforts of the Saudi Reconciliation Committee and a relative of the family, Ambassador Tago and DFA Undersecretary Rafael Seguis met with the victim’s father and brothers.

During that meeting, the heirs expressed willingness to forgive Lanuza and accept blood money in the amount of three million Saudi Riyals and not 3.5 million as mentioned in media reports.

The Embassy also clarified that the process must be done through the concerned court and subsequently affirmed by the region’s Emir.

LANUZA STILL IN PRISON

First, the heirs must receive the blood money agreed upon for the settlement of the private rights aspect of the case. The settlement should then be recorded by the court and the family will execute a tanazul.

The tanazul would manifest that the accused was indeed forgiven by the heirs. The case file is then forwarded to the Emir’s Office for the issuance of a release order.

Until all these steps are completed, Lanuza is not yet spared from the death sentence.

The Embassy reiterated that Lanuza is still in prison and the process for his release will only commence once the blood money is settled through the court.

The DFA also urged the public, especially those who have relatives with pending criminal cases abroad to rely only on official information from the DFA or any of its embassies or consulates to avoid confusion regarding such sensitive matters.

The conviction is under appeal. If the conviction is reversed, the Manila-born Lanuza could be set free. If not, Lanuza, 37, could face another round of court case if the children of the victim, who are now 8 and 10 years old, reach 18 and reject the blood-money and ask the court to re-instate the beheading. Earlier, Mr. Pecson urged Ms. Lewis’ younger sister, Secretary Imelda Nicolas of the Commission of Overseas Filipinos and Vice President Jejomar Binay to get involved in getting Mr. Lanuza released.

He said, as OFW Presidential Adviser, Mr. Binay should “give priority to secure the release of Mr. Lanuza and set aside his involvement on the United National Alliance (UNA) political party and his presidential ambition and his dreams” as the 2013 senatorial and 2016 elections are still a bit far down the road. “Huwag niyang unahin ang UNA.” (He should not give priority to UNA.)

Donors to Lanuza’s fund-raising may send in their donations to Metro Bank in Malolos, Bulacan with Savings Account Number: 575-3-575-01112-9 in what is called ‘BARYA NG BUHAY KO’ fund raising. other donors may accept the “One-Million Pesos (US$23,809) Challenge Grant,” where an anonymous donor would match their donations, or log on at http://www.helpdondon.com/. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal)

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