By Malu Cadelina Manar
KIDAPAWAN CITY – Former overseas Filipino worker Ernie Tamonde who was incarcerated in Iran for at least a decade for drug trafficking charges is finally back home.
Tamonde said he did not expect he would gain freedom after being sentenced to die in Iran when airport authorities found in his luggage two kilos of cocaine, a suspected illegal drug.
On March 2009, he was sentenced to die through public hanging. He said he was among the 600 inmates at the Iran jail facility who were waiting for their time to die.
“For seven months, since March 2009, I stopped living. I no longer took a bath. I thought anytime I will die just like the others,” he recounted.
He expected to die in November 2009. But it was in early 2010 when he was told that his sentence was commuted to life.
“It was a relief. When I was being transferred to another building, I refused to have a final look at the death area where I suffered so much,” he said.
While inside the prison, he recounted that a human rights worker helped him by informing the United Nations of his case. The worker told UN that a Filipino named Tamonde was imprisoned in Iran for a crime he allegedly did not commit.
“So from there, my case was being studied. That is why from a life sentence, the judge commuted it to 20 years,” he stressed.
It was in 2017 when a lady attorney from Iran approached Tamonde and offered him a ‘pro bono’ service.
“The attorney, whose name I will protect, helped me get out of prison. From 20 years, the judge told me to pay the remaining years. My friends and family members back home helped my sister Emmie to raise the amount,” he said.
Tamonde said that while in prison, he wrote novels.
In March 2017, Emmie published “The Red Diamond”, Tamonde’s first book which depicted his life story.
Tamonde said his second book entitled, “The Brownies”, is soon to be published. His other books included, “The Girly Fly”, which is a fantasy story.