KUWAIT: The $26,000 ‘dia’ or blood money collected from various Filipino organizations in Kuwait to free one of the longest serving Filipinos in a Kuwaiti jail, was finally handed over to the Philippine Embassy. The turn-over ceremony was recently held at the Philippine Embassy in Faiha and the blood money was received by Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Pedro Villa and Philippine Consul General Atty Raul Dado. Joseph Urbiztondo, 45, had previously appealed to the Philippine government for help with regard to the blood money but the government was reluctant to provide any amount. However, through the support of Filipino organizations in Kuwait and some individuals, the needed amount was finally raised. Urbiztondo was sentenced by a Kuwaiti court to life in jail for accidentally killing his Bangladeshi co-worker, Azizur Rahman, in 1996. In early 2011, the family of the victim agreed on the amount of ‘dia,’ but Urbiztondo’s family could not raise the amount at that time, so he was not freed.
The community effort was led by the Alliance of Filipino Organizations in Kuwait (headed by Dr Chie Umandap) which collected KD 2,400, the Holy Family Cathedral (headed by Father Ben Barrameda) which raised KD 2,000, and other Filipino organizations, Filcom (Oliver Diong) and LCC (Pastor Allan Dytianquin), which raised KD 1,600. The remaining amount was shouldered by an anonymous donor through Consul General Raul Dado who contributed KD 1,850. The full amount of ‘dia’ is set to be delivered to Azizur Rahman’s family via the Philippine Embassy in Dhaka in Bangladesh.
There, formalities for the ‘dia’ turnover will be done, including the signing of ‘tanazul’ or letter of forgiveness. Speaking with the local press at the embassy, Ambassador Villa thanked the Filipino community for raising the amount even though it took years to raise the money. “I thank the Filipino organizations in Kuwait for coming together and sharing the amount of money for Urbiztondo’s freedom. I am really proud of what the Filipinos could do for their compatriots, if they are acting in unity,” he said. Commenting about Urbiztondo’s release, Ambassador Villa added, “Perhaps he’ll just have to stay in jail for a few weeks or so, and he will be freed soon.”
Meanwhile, Father Ben Barrameda of the Catholic Church mentioned that the money contributed by the church was made possible through the permission of Bishop Camillo Ballin. “To all Filipinos who helped and shared something … thank you. We don’t condone wrongdoing but Urbiztondo already paid the consequence of his action: he has been in jail for almost 20 years. For Urbiztondo, we will wait for your freedom and [the time you will] be with your family,” he said.
Pastor Allan Dytianquin also thanked God for the gift of realization and acceptance. “God listens to prayers. Sometimes it’s a bit delayed, but He provides it in His time. God is a God of justice,” he said. “Urbiztondo served his prison sentence in the Kuwaiti jail. It is about time for him to face a new chapter in his life,” Pastor Dytianquin commented. Club Ilonggo President and Filipino organization coordinator Oliver Diong and FCC President Mildred Lacson who both worked hard to raise the amount thanked the individuals and their leaders for their help. “Really, it’s a message to all of us. There’s hope. Thank God and thanks to everyone, especially to leaders of Filipino organizations, who shared in this initiative,” Diong asserted.
Mildred Lacson who is also one of the coordinators for the Alliance of Filipino Organization explained the money they have contributed in the ‘dia’ was the fruit of several concerts they have organized in the past years. “We collected the amount through a series of concerts called “MusikaatTawanan.” So, we did not just give Filipinos an outlet to be happy, we also give hope to Urbiztondo,” she said, noting that the Alliance, through Dr Umandap, Ana del Mundo and Dolor Elenany, really worked hard to complete the amount.
By Ben Garcia
Source : Kuwaittimes