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MENAFN - Arab News - 03/02/2013

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A file picture of Saudi Ambassador to the Philippines Abdullah Al-Hassan at the Saudi Embassy in Manila. (AN photo)
(MENAFN - Arab News) The Saudi government seeks only to bolster its good relations with the Philippines with its agreement to pay part of the blood money to free a Filipino from death row, said Saudi Ambassador to the Philippines Abdullah Al-Hassan, speaking on the phone from Manila on Saturday.

Meanwhile, speaking to Arab News from prison in Dammam on Friday, Rodelio Celestino "Dondon" Lanuza, the Filipino who has been serving a 12-year sentence for killing the Saudi Mohamed Al-Qahtani in June 2000, thanked the Saudi government and his fellow citizens for helping to secure his release.

The Saudi government announced Thursday that it would pay the balance of SR 2.3 million of the SR 3 million in blood money that the family of Al-Qahtani wants. The victim's family pardoned Lanuza on Feb. 27, 2011 if he paid the blood money.

Al-Hassan said that Saudi Arabia's humanitarian gesture was to bolster relations with the "good people" of the Philippines. "There are many mutual factors that bind us."

Al-Hassan added that he would like to meet with Lanuza when he is released.

Lanuza, who has converted to Islam and is now named Esa, said on Friday he would also like to meet the ambassador to thank him personally. He did not want to make any further comment. "I shall issue a press release very soon," he said.

Al-Hassan recalled promising to help Lanuza when Arab News sent him a letter on the matter on Sep. 20 last year.

Lanuza had earlier sent a letter to Arab News in which he pleaded for help. He had asked Arab News to seek the intervention of various members of the royal family and Saudi government officials.

In his personal capacity, he had also sent letters to prospective donors, including King Abdullah.

At a press conference in Manila on Friday, the Philippine's Department of Foreign Affairs thanked the Saudi government for the "humanitarian gesture" that would pave the way for the issuance of an affidavit of forgiveness (tanazul) in Lanuza's favor, thus formally saving him from execution.

Vice President Jejomar Binay and Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario on Friday expressed the Philippine government's gratitude to King Abdullah.

"This positive development is a result of the tireless effort and steadfast commitment of Filipinos working together," said Del Rosario. He also thanked Filipino-American philanthropist Loida Nicolas-Lewis, the person who led the private sector's fund-raising efforts for the blood money, and other individuals from around the world who donated various amounts.

In September last year, an international non-governmental organization with goodwill ambassadors in 193 countries around the world, had asked the people of Saudi Arabia to help free the Filipino on humanitarian grounds.

Many Filipinos across the world had highlighted his plight on various networking sites including Facebook and Twitter.

Among those who helped were Jules M. Ragas, based in Saudi Arabia; and Janice Azur, based in Bahrain.

In his letter to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, founding chairman of the Southern Philippines Muslim Unity and Development Association (SPMUDA), Dr. Datu Camad M. Ali, said: "In line with our objectives of fostering world unity and cooperation among Muslims and non-Muslims, as well as promoting world peace, understanding and international friendship, and on the occasion of your 82th National Day, we write on behalf of Dondon Lanuza, a Filipino worker who is still languishing in jail on death row, while the family and all sympathizers failed to raise the blood money by moving heaven and earth."

In a separate letter, John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, told Arab News that his group was elated that Lanuza was going to be released.

For more than 12 years, Migrante spearheaded a campaign along with various overseas foreign worker (OFW) organizations in Saudi Arabia and in the Middle East to save inmates on death row.


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