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Saudi Arabia spares Philippine death-row inmate

Riyadh “has paid the balance of the blood money”

Gulf News

Manila: A Filipino sentenced to death by beheading in Saudi Arabia for killing a man he said tried to sexually abuse him is to walk free after blood money was paid to the victim’s family, officials said Friday.

Rodelio “Dondon” Lanuza is expected to be released after more than 12 years in prison following the Saudi government’s decision to pay 2.3 million riyals ($615,000) to the victim’s family, Vice President Jejomar Binay said.

“I am glad to announce that our compatriot has been spared from the death penalty,” Binay said in a statement. The remaining $245,000 of the compensation sought by the victim’s family was raised by Lanuza’s relatives, he added.

The Saudi embassy in Manila confirmed the deal, saying in a statement that Riyadh “has paid the balance of the blood money”.

Under the Saudi legal system, acceptance of blood money leads to the signing of a waiver by the victim’s family signifying forgiveness, Binay’s office said.

Lanuza, a 39-year-old draughtsman, went to work in Saudi Arabia in 1995. He was sentenced to death after he admitted stabbing his victim to death in 2000.

Saudi Arabia’s assistance was extended to Lanuza’s mother who had appealed for assistance with regards to raising the remainder of the blood money, the Saudi Arabian Embassy said.

In time, Lanuza received an affidavit of forgiveness and his travel papers are being processed so he could return home, said Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez.

Philippine government officials expressed their gratitude to the Saudi Arabian government, members of the Philippine Embassy officials in Saudi Arabia, and the non-government organizations that have been following up on Lanuza’s case.

In 2011, the Saudi Reconciliation Committee assisted the families of the victim and the accused for the payment of blood money to save Lanuza from beheading.

However, Binay said another Filipino death row prisoner, Joselito Zapanta, is expected to be beheaded soon unless more than $800,000 in blood money is paid to the family of his Sudanese landlord, who he murdered in 2009.

The construction worker won a four-month stay of execution in mid-November to give him more time to raise the amount but is still believed to be a long way short of raising the required funds.

Lnstay of an economy that has struggled to create well-paying domestic jobs.

- with inputs from Barbara Mae Dacanay, Bureau Chief, Manila