BACOOR, Cavite – Unlike other children, Fatham, 13, and Mohd, 11, are not asking for new clothes or toys this Christmas. Instead, they are pleading that their stepfather, who has been in the Damman Central Jail in Saudi Arabia for eight years now, be freed.
“Please help our Papa,” teary-eyed Fatham told the Inquirer on Friday at their residence in Camella Homes in Bacoor.
In five days or less, they might be forced to leave the house, as they could no longer afford to pay the required amount of P99,000. The house has been foreclosed and a new owner might occupy the unit soon.
Rodelio Lanuza, 34, was jailed in August 2000 after he was charged of murdering an Arab who belonged to an influential family.
Lanuza is now in death row as he was sentenced to die in public execution through beheading last May 27, 2002. Fortunately, the beheading was delayed as he has to wait for another seven years until the youngest child of the victim reaches legal age.
“The youngest child of the victim can either forgive my husband or not. I am also appealing to the king of KSA to help us negotiate with the victim’s family,” his wife Maribeth told the Inquirer.
Lanuza worked as a technician in a private firm in Saudi Arabia before the incident happened.
Maribeth, 33, said: “His first two years in jail was very hard. He was put in solitary confinement.”
“He attended his first hearing all by himself. He had no lawyer to defend him. There was not even someone from the [Philippine] Embassy to accompany him,” Maribeth said, trying to hold back her tears.
The killing reportedly took place in August 2000 in a social gathering in Saudi where an Arabian national, who happened to belong to a known family in the area, assaulted him.
Maribeth refused to disclose details, saying the case is too sensitive. Lanuza’s case is with Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Judicial Council.
She said her husband would even give his belongings that they had sent him to his inmates who are in need. “Even as he is in jail, he never fails to help other people.”
The Lanuza family’s difficulties do not end at having the family head in jail.
On Oct. 8, Maribeth was forced to go home as she learned that no one was taking care of their two children. Maribeth also worked in Saudi Arabia as a hospital aide.
With only the exact amount of fare in her pocket, she flew back to the country.
The couple decided to leave their children to a housemaid whom they trusted. It turned out that the money they sent did not go to the needs of their children but was instead spent by the housemaid.
Maribeth said she wanted to file a case against the housemaid, Deborah Balunsay.
“Filing a case, however, would mean shelling out money, so I decided not to pursue the case,” she said.
The experience had put their two children in despair, especially Fatham, who developed depression.
Maribeth felt that the government was not paying much attention to jailed Filipinos abroad. “The issue is not just about my husband. There are many Filipinos in jails abroad, some are already waiting for their death. I am appealing to the government to do something about our problem,” she said.
Lanuza is on his own in his case. Right now, no lawyer is assisting him and negotiations between the victim’s family are conducted without counsel. “He badly needs legal assistance,” Maribeth said.
However, she is thankful that individuals and groups have been helping them. “Some sent monetary support before, but what we need is an assurance that my husband will not be beheaded and he will be freed.”