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KUWAIT CITY, Jan 26: Finally, the long wait is over for the longest serving Filipino inmate who has been in the Kuwait Central Jail for 20 years now after being sentenced to life imprisonment for killing a Bangladeshi national.
Joseph Urbiztondo will be going home to the Philippines soon after getting an Amiri pardon, confi rmed Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Pedro O Villa, who visited Urbiztondo on Tuesday at the ‘Talha’ or Kuwait Deportation Centre.
Urbiztondo was transferred from the Kuwait Central Jail to the Kuwait Deportation Centre on Monday. His release came after paying dia (blood money) and securing a tanazul (letter of forgiveness) from the son of the victim in Dhaka, Bangladesh in September last year and eventually, an Amiri pardon was granted to him. “Joseph already has a release order based on an Amiri decree According to the Colonel who is in charge at the detention centre, Joseph only needs a travel document and a plane ticket which the embassy will be handing to him.
Hopefully, he can fly home to the Philippines by next week,” disclosed Villa. He thanked HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah for granting pardon to Urbiztondo. Urbiztondo, 45, a native of Bacoor, Cavite in the Philippines was arrested by authorities on July 6, 1996 for allegedly killing a Bangladeshi national and was later on sentenced to 25 years imprisonment. “I would like to thank His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah for his mercy and compassion. I would like to thank God for giving me another chance to live a new life. I would like to thank ABS-CBN-TFC for being the first one to air my case, the local media, Filipino leaders, Filipinos in Kuwait, various organisations, Evangelical Church, Catholic Church, Bishop Ballin, Fr Ben, the Philippine Embassy, Ambassador Renato Villa, Consul General Raul Dado, Consul General Pendosina Lomondot, Ambassador Roy Seneres, Roy Seneres Jr, Oliver Diong, Dr Chie Umandap and Dennis here at Talha and to those who have helped and I failed to mention, please forgive me, thank you so much,” conveyed Urbiztondo to the Arab Times on the phone.
He was crying with happiness on the phone as he thanked everyone who helped him and prayed for him. In the past, Urbiztondo wrote letters to the Philippine government and some government officials asking for help for his blood money but nothing happened.
It was in August 2012 with the initiative of former Philippine Labour Attache to Kuwait David Des Dicang who gathered leaders of various Filipino organisations and launched the fund drive “Barya mo, Laya ko” (Your coin for my freedom) to help raise the blood money for Urbiztondo.
The blood money amounting to KD6,000 was collected by various Filipino organisations, the Roman Catholic Church and some individuals in February 2013 but it had remained for safekeeping with some Filipino leaders while the Philippine Embassy was trying to locate the victim’s next of kin in Bangladesh.
Last year, with the help of the Philippine Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh led by Charge d’ Affaires Pendosina Lomondot, some non-governmental organisations and the Bangladeshi government, they were able to find the victim’s son that led to the negotiation of the tanazul and the son demanded US$26,000 for the blood money. Short of $6,000, Philippine Consul General to Kuwait Raul H Dado was able to raise the additional amount with the help of some anonymous donors to complete the blood money.
The ceremonial turnover of the blood money was held at the Philippine Embassy in Faiha in the presence of Ambassador Villa in July 2015 that was then transmitted to Dhaka. The victim’s son signed the tanazul on Sept 16, 2015 at the Kuwait Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh and upon receipt of the tanazul, the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait forwarded it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that forwarded it to the Amiri Diwan and concerned authorities. “Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart. I can finally go home and be given a new lease of life. Indeed, with God, nothing is impossible. God bless you all for your kindness,” stated Urbiztondo who is overwhelmed with excitement to be reunited with his family in the Philippines soon.
By Michelle Fe Santiago Arab Times Staff
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