I never lost hope, says freed OFW


Rodelio Celestino Lanuza. FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—In an old green plastic bag, pardoned Filipino death convict Rodelio “Dondon” Lanuza carried one book that kept his hopes up that freedom would eventually come.

“This is the hadith. It contains the sayings of Prophet Mohammad. It taught me that nothing is impossible,” Lanuza told reporters shortly after he arrived in Manila at 3:05 p.m. on Thursday.

It was a homecoming he looked forward to for 13 years.

“Imagine, I was a simple man who asked for help. Who would have thought that princes and kings would help?” Lanuza said.

Lanuza, now 38, arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 via Etihad Airways flight EY-424.

“I haven’t slept in two days … I am both excited and worried because it’s going to be a new world again,” said Lanuza, who was 25 when he was jailed for the killing of Saudi national Mohammad bin Said Al-Qathani in 2000.

Upon seeing his parents at the airport lounge, a sobbing Lanuza gave them a tight hug.

“It’s a miracle,” Letty Lanuza, his mother, told the Inquirer. “From the forgiveness, to the release, to the deportation, his arrival. It’s a miracle.”

“Now I can believe that he’s here. I’m beside him now,” said Lanuza’s father, Edilberto, who last saw him 16 years ago. The father was living in the United States even before Dondon left for Saudi Arabia in 1996, at age 22.

The overseas worker was pardoned upon payment of P32 million (3 million in Saudi riyals) in blood money, P25 million (2.3 million Saudi riyals) of which was shouldered by Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz.

Lanuza was released upon securing a tanazul, or affidavit of forgiveness, from Al-Qathani’s family when he had completed the blood money payments.

“I felt confident that [I will not be put to death] because I know I am not guilty. My conscience is clean,” Lanuza told reporters in Filipino.

Lanuza, hired as an architectural draftsman in Saudi Arabia, said he acted in self-defense when he killed Al-Qathani who attempted to rape him.

“I also got stabbed many times,” said Lanuza, showing now healed stab wounds on his neck, his abdomen and legs.

Lanuza spent the first two years of his incarceration in solitary confinement per Saudi jail provisions for murder convicts. During those years, Lanuza said he had moments when “I was in despair, I got angry with God and thought of killing myself.”

While in confinement, Lanuza, a Christian, turned to Islam. He learned all about the faith for 10 months before converting in 2001.

Lanuza somehow got to sneak in a mobile phone in to his cell, a tool that he wisely used to fight for freedom.

“I talked to anyone, just anyone who could possibly help me. I didn’t care who I was talking to,” said Lanuza.

He thanked President Aquino, Vice President Jejomar Binay, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration for working for his pardon and repatriation.

Lanuza, still single, is set to meet his long-time girlfriend Friday. His family also requested privacy as they intended to spend time together to catch up.

Lanuza returned to his home in Barangay 398, Sampaloc, Manila, at around 5 p.m. Thursday, with residents flocking around the van and following him as he was helped home by barangay (village) watchmen.

The family is preparing a thanksgiving Mass Saturday.

Garry Martinez, chairman of Migrante International, said his group was confident that as a free man, Lanuza would continue to take up the cudgels for distressed OFWs.

“We are very happy for Dondon and the Lanuza family. All our efforts have not been in vain, and we attribute this mainly to Dondon’s fighting spirit and the collective efforts of friends, supporters and family,” said Martinez.

“There is still much help needed to campaign for the lives of other OFWs on death row. Dondon’s experience and story will serve as an inspiration to our kababayan who have been losing hope,” Martinez said in a statement.—With a report from Tina G. Santos



Pardoned OFW returns home

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  • walaywalay

    Our prisons are full of people carrying around BIBLES & KORANS and just as quick as they picked them up when they entered they toss them away when they leave for they are nothing but FRAUDS FAKES & CHARLATANS if this convicted murderer who will not and can not escape hells eternal flames carried and abide by the 10 commandments of GOD he would not have been in prison for MURDER to begin with
    “If ye love me, keep my commandments ” (John 14:15)
    JESUS SAID-“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’
    But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on
    the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:38-39) There is no ”self-defense” found in GODS law-GOD IS OUR DEFENSE
    “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15)

  • Abdulsalam


    • JosengSisiw1

      have you read the story…the filthy_muslim is trying to rape him, maybe you’re one of those filthy_muslim rapist in middle east.,

      • ManilaMan

        Lol, i guess male rape is their way of making christians pay for their crimes? So Abdusalam, how many christian dudes have you raped? Nakakailang booking ka sa isang gabi? Lol

    • ManilaMan

      A lesson for Filipinos who may find themselves locked up in Middle East prisons. Convert to Islam and you may be as lucky to get a pardon as this guy.
      You can always throw away the scarf or turban upon your release.

      • JosengSisiw1

        you hit it right…they spread their religion through force & coercions, like those in medieval era.

    • Diepor

      Sto your hate ABGAYSALAM

  • judeanbob

    So when a muslim neandathal tries to do what he does best and you try to defend yourself or be murdered,they send you to prison?? Well I guess he is lucky he wasnt a female and was half buried and stoned to death.

  • Simpleng_ofw

    I think he suffered a long time, so it’s understandable.

  • M C

    Senyor, simulan mo ng isulat ang mga karanasan mo sa loob ng kulungan. Maaari mo ng ipalimbag ito pagkatapos at magiging best seller ito. Maari mo na rin lapitan ang Viva Films upang gumawa ng pagsasapelikula ng iyong karanasan sa loob ng piitan. Wag ka basta magpa interbyu sa mga networks ng libre at wag mo lahat sasabihin at baka wala ka ng mailalagay na iba pang detalye sa iyong aklat at hindi na ito mabibili. Pag gusto ka interbyuhin, sumingil ka ng Interview Fee or Appearance Fee para meron ka naman iambag sa OFW Welfare Fund kapalit ng malaking halaga na kanilang ibinigay para sa iyong kalayaan. Tayo lamang mga Pinoy ang pwedeng maipamahagi sa buong mundo ang mga kundisyon ng loob ng mga piitan sa Saudi at at ang kanilang sistema ng hustisya dahil mga Pinoy ang kadalasan sumasapit ng ganitong karanasan. Maaaring sa pamamagitan ng iyong pagsusulat ay magkaroon ng pandaigdigang pagkilos upang baguhin na ng Saudi ang kanilang pamamaraan ng parusa at pananaw sa hustisya.

  • JosengSisiw1

    the first thing you do before going 1st time to middle east is to grow some beard, darken your skin and be as ugly as possible. you have to make sure that there’s not a single feminine look in you. looking at lanuza’s picture, his looks really makes him very attractive to the animal rapists in the middle east; and there’s a lot of them that will salivate at your arse just having a slight feminine characteristic in you.

  • $2931613

    haay… gaya-gaya nalang saan mapunta.. im not saying muslim is bad or not.. im just saying ung mga kababayan natin na pumunta sa US, nagiging black-americans sa pananalita at pagdadamit.. kung mapunta naman sa spain, nagiging spanish na rin… ngayon napunta sa middle east, nagiging muslim na rin.. ano ba yan.. gaya gaya putomaya

  • opinyonlangpo

    Somebody should advise this OFW not to give out any statements. He just went through a traumatic death defying, life direction altering experience. He should undergo a rehab under a qualified psychotherapist and rest for a few months to bring back his former self. Right now all that is programmed in his brain is that Allah is great and the good muslims, prince helped him and spared his life. Thirteen years in limbo cannot be restored in few months though.

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