MANILA, Philippines—Vice President Jejomar Binay on Friday told the family of pardoned death convict Rodelio “Dondon” Lanuza to be patient, saying he would be freed by Saudi Arabian authorities “once the process for his release has been observed.”
Binay, in a statement, said the important thing was that he has been spared the death penalty.
It has been six months since the Saudi king, in a surprise act of charity, donated 2.3 million riyals needed to complete the 3-million-riyal blood money demanded by the family of the man Lanuza had killed. It reportedly took several months for the government to forward its own donation-pledge to Lanuza’s cause.
Apparently responding to criticism that the slow response of the Philippine government was what was holding up Lanuza’s release, the Vice President cited the case of another Filipino who was pardoned ahead of Lanuza but who is still awaiting the completion of the release process.
Respecting the process
“I understand how Dondon and his family feel. I am asking for patience. There is a process that we need to observe. The embassy has been consistently following up his papers but we need to respect their process,” Binay said.
The Vice President said Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ezzedin Tago informed him that the Saudi Reconciliation Committee already notified the victim’s family to send a representative to sign the printed copy of the judgment.
The printed copy has an updated notation that the family has accepted the blood money and is no longer pursuing its earlier demand for Lanuza’s beheading.
Binay also dispelled insinuations that the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh was not exerting efforts to help fast track Lanuza’s release.
“Early this month, our embassy officials met Director Ahmad Al Tuwaijri of the Emir’s office in Dammam to inform him that there was already a court decision regarding the tanazul (affidavit of forgiveness) executed by the heirs of the victim in favor of Lanuza,” Binay said.
Tuwaijri informed the embassy officials that his office had already received a copy of the settlement of the case, Binay added.
Binay added that after the tanazul was signed, Lanuza’s family would have to wait for the affirmation of the settlement by the Saudi appellate court. After that, Lanuza’s case will be sent by the court to the Emir’s office, or the office of Prince Khalid bin Bandar al Saud, governor of Riyadh Province.
The Emir’s office will then issue an order on the settlement of the case and Lanuza’s file will be sent to the interior ministry for clearance.
Upon the issuance of a clearance by the ministry, the Emir’s office will direct the concerned police authorities including jail authorities to begin deportation procedures.
Lanuza claimed he had killed the Saudi man in self-defense. Saudi’s highest court, however, affirmed his death penalty in 2001. He was later forgiven by the family in exchange for blood money of 3 million riyals (about P33 million).
The Philippine government together with private individuals and nongovernment organizations raised 700,000 riyals (P7.6 million) for Lanuza’s blood money.