Dondon Lanuza ends 13-year ordeal in Saudi
DAMMAM, Saudi Arabia – Thirteen years after killing a Saudi national and being handed a death sentence, Rodelio "Dondon" Celestino Lanuza took a flight out of Saudi Arabia to the Philippines Wednesday night.
Escorted by two jail officers, Lanuza arrived at King Fahad International Airport at 8:30 p.m. By 9:00 p.m., he checked in with the airline and completed immigration proceedings before boarding the plane.
Lanuza boarded an Etihad Flight which would take him to Manila via Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. He is expected to arrive on Thursday afternoon.
He was seen off at the airport by Attaché Jerome Friaz and Translator / Interpreter Jamel Haris of the Assistance to Nationals Section of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, Benito Celestino, his Cousin and by ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau.
Lanuza was sentenced to death by qissas or beheading for killing a Saudi national but was pardoned upon payment of blood money amounting to SAR 3 million or P35 million and the signing of the 'tanazul' or letter of forgiveness by the victim’s family.
His problem started on the night of August 10, 2000 at around 9:00 p.m., when the incident with the Saudi national took place. Five days later, he surrendered to Saudi authorities accompanied by then Ambassador Rafael Seguis.
He was sentenced to death on June 30, 2001. An appeal for the death sentence was filed on July 29, 2001, but was not pursued then upon the advice of elders to show humility.
Since then, efforts have been made to mediate to try and get the victim’s family to agree to accept blood money in exchange for forgiveness. Initially, the family refused and insisted on the implementation of the sentence.
The Help Save a Life Movement was launched by Reggie Jose (deceased) to help raise the blood money to save Dondon’s life even before the family agreed to accept the blood money.
But on February 27, 2011, the victim’s family agreed to sign a letter of forgiveness and accept the blood money. Initially they demanded, SAR 5 million but this was reduced to SAR 3 million.
In December 2011, Letty Lanuza, Dondon’s mother, sought the help of Loida Nicolas-Lewis, a Filipino American philanthropist, to raise the needed Blood Money.
Lewis and supporters were able collect more than $121,000 or roughly SAR 450,000.
In January 2013, His Royal Highness King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud agreed to shoulder SAR 2.3 million while the Philippine government paid the balance to complete the total amount of the blood money.