MANILA -– The life of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) on death row was spared twice: first from the threat of tuberculosis while in prison, and second when he exited the Saudi jail as a free man after charitable hearts paid for his blood money worth Php4.8 million (400,000 Saudi riyals or US$ 7,000).
Dante Altizo, then 36 years old, was sentenced to death by the Saudi court for stabbing to death his roommate, a 27-year old fellow OFW, following an argument between them at their company accommodation in Al-Baha, about 400 km from Jeddah.
Altizo admitted the crime and served almost six years in prison, during which time he embraced Islam and took the name “Ibrahim.”
The Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah in coordination with Saudi authorities, provided legal and other forms of assistance to Mr. Altizo, the Filipino victim, and their families in the Philippines, beginning with the investigation and trial, and up to the settlement of the blood money and subsequent release of Altizo.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) provided lawyers for Mr. Altizo through the Legal Assistance Fund.
In 2013, just when a charitable institution in the Kingdom settled the blood money, Mr. Altizo contracted tuberculosis and pneumonia.
This act of kindness would have been in vain were it not for the persistence of another Filipino, a fellow inmate, who convinced jail guards to immediately give Mr. Altizo medical care and to contact the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah.
Mr. Altizo was brought to a special medical facility in Taif (125 km from Jeddah) where, by February this year, Consulate General representatives found him on the road to full recovery.
Mr. Altizo said he would be forever grateful to the Saudi government, the Saudi charitable institution for the gift, and the DFA for its assistance.
When asked if Altizo would be repatriated, Saudi authorities replied that now that he embraced Islam, he may opt to stay in the Kingdom.
Altizo opted to return home to his family on July 24.