Saudi 'spares Philippines death-row convict'

About 125 Filipinos are on death row abroad

Saudi Arabia has spared one of two Filipino men sentenced to death by beheading for separate killings, Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay said Friday.

Rodelio "Dondon" Lanuza is expected to walk free after more than 12 years in prison following the Saudi government's decision to pay 2.3 million rials ($614,000) in indemnity to the victim's kin, Binay announced on television.

Binay, who said he had personally lobbied for Lanuza's freedom, added the balance of the $860,000 settlement sought by the victim's kin was raised by the convict's family.

"It's already definite that he will be spared from the death penalty," Binay said on the ABS-CBN network.

The draughtsman was sentenced to death after he told a Saudi court he had knifed his Saudi employer to death in August 2000 to protect himself from assault, said labour rights monitor Gary Martinez.

"Lanuza, 39, is expected to be granted freedom by the Saudi Reconciliation Committee," Martinez, chairman of Migrante International, a migrant workers' rights group, said in a statement.

"All our efforts have not been in vain, and we attribute this mainly to (Lanuza's) fighting spirit and the collective efforts of friends, supporters and family.

"If not for these, the Philippine and Saudi governments would not have given proper attention to Dondon's case," Martinez added.

However, Binay said the Saudis are set to behead another Filipino death convict, Joselito Zapanta, shortly unless about $811,000 in blood money is paid to the kin of his Sudanese landlord who was murdered in 2009.

The construction worker won a four-month stay of execution in mid-November last year to give him more time to raise the amount.

Binay said the victim's family had since agreed to settle for less than the original amount of about $1.08 million, though the amount raised so far was still far less than the reduced amount.

Martinez told AFP about 125 Filipinos including Lanuza and Zapanta were on death row abroad.

The largest group of 75 were convicted in China for narcotics smuggling, he said.

About nine million Filipinos work overseas. Their remittances are a mainstay of an economy that has struggled to create well-paying domestic jobs.

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