MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine government on Friday thanked the Saudi government for its decision to shoulder nearly P25 million in blood money for jailed Filipino worker Rodelio Celestino Lanuza, saying the act affirmed the strong ties between the two countries.
“On behalf of President Aquino, we would like to express our most sincere thanks to His Excellency King Abdullah for his gesture of kindness. This gesture once again affirms the strong ties of friendship and brotherhood between the Philippines and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Vice President Jejomar Binay said in a statement Friday.
The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia announced on Thursday that its government had made a directive for the payment of the balance of 2.3 million Saudi Riyals for handing over to the heirs of the victims of Lanuza, who had admitted to stabbing an Arab out of self-defense in June 2000 and was sentenced in 2002 to death by beheading.
In February 2011, the Philippine government and the Saudi Reconciliation Committee in Dammam helped him secure forgiveness from the offended family. The family required a diyya or compensation worth P35 million.
The embassy noted that the family had filed an appeal to the Saudi government after paying an initial 700,000 riyals (P7.6 million).
In his statement, Binay also apologized for being elusive and not readily answering questions regarding the state of Lanuza’s case for the past years, saying that the cases of Lanuza and other Filipinos’ on death row in Saudi were very sensitive.
“Itinuturing na sensitibo ang kaso ni Dondon at ng iba pang mga kababayan natin na nahaharap sa hatol na bitay sa Saudi Arabia, at anumang mga pagsisikap at pakikipag-usap sa pagitan ng inyong pamahalaan at nga mga awtoridad sa Saudi Arabia ay sadya naming hindi muna ipinahayag,” Binay said.
“Ito’y para na rin maiwasan ang anumang negatibong reaksyon mula sa kaanak ng biktima na maaaring makaapekto sa ating mga pagsisikap,” he added.
The embassy, in its announcement on Thursday, noted the Saudi Arabian government made the “royal goodwill gesture” as a result of coordination and cooperation between the Saudi Embassy in Manila and the Office of the Vice President. Binay, is the presidential adviser for migrant workers’ affairs.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), in a separate statement on Friday, also expressed the government’s gratitude for the act, adding that the development was due to the “tireless effort and steadfast commitment of Filipinos working together.”
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario said that Lanuza’s new lease on life was “due in no small part to the invaluable contribution and dedication of American businesswoman Loida Nicolas-Lewis, the person who led the private sector’s fundraising efforts.”
Del Rosario also expressed gratitude to the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, led by Ambassador Ezzedin Tago, for the assistance for Lanuza throughout his incarceration and to the other individuals who donated various amounts to save Lanuza’s life.
The DFA had earlier said that the next step in the process would be to secure the Saudi court’s order for Lanuza’s release.
“This positive development is a result of the tireless effort and steadfast commitment of Filipinos working together. We hope that as soon as all legal procedures are completed, Mr. Lanuza will finally be reunited with his family,” Del Rosario said.