Filipino Drug Trafficker Executed in China

Filipino Drug Trafficker Executed in China

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MANILA, Phils. -- Despite prayers and pleas of his countrymen, China on Thursday executed a 35-year-old man convicted of drug trafficking, the fourth national from the Philippines to be put to death for peddling dangerous drugs by the world’s most prolific executioner. Hours before he received lethal injection, the Filipino, who was not identified at the request of his family, was allowed to meet briefly with his two siblings and two cousins, who traveled to south China’s Guangxi province, where the execution was carried out. “The subject was very calm but his family kept on crying,” Vice President Jejomar Binay told reporters in Manila, adding the man was given last rites and last communion by a Filipino priest, a certain Father Emil, who accompanied the family and consulate officials to the Guilin detention facility. The man was led to a courtroom where the sentence was read and whisked away to the death chamber, located in Liuzhou, about two hours away from the prison, Binay said. “At 12:30 p.m., our countryman was executed,” he added. The man was arrested in 2008 at Guilin International Airport while trying to smuggle in 1.5 kilograms of heroin from Malaysia. Smuggling more than 50 grams of heroin or other drugs is punishable by death in China. Malacañang said China did not reply to President Benigno Aquino III’s letter asking for the commutation of the sentence. The Philippines has abolished the death penalty. “It looks like there was no response,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said when asked if Chinese President Hu Jintao had replied to Mr. Aquino’s letter. “We take that as a decision from them that the sentence was final and it was actually carried out today.” Lacierda renewed the government’s warning to Filipinos trying their luck overseas not to allow themselves to be used by crime groups to smuggle illegal substances. “We have always been telling the public and those who are traveling to work abroad not to be used as drug mules,” he said. Published reports say that of the Filipinos used by syndicates to smuggle illegal drugs, 62 percent are women and 38 percent are men. The women reportedly are paid between $500 and $5,000 to swallow tubes containing the drugs, hide them in their genitals, or soak them into paper or books. The Philippines has more than 200 people languishing in Chinese jails on drug-related charges. They are part of what authorities have said is a growing trend of poor Filipinos targeted by international drug syndicates to transport their contraband around the world. About nine million Filipinos work abroad, and the drug traffickers have particularly targeted the overseas diaspora. Overlapping territorial claims over potentially gas-rich islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) have strained ties between Manila and Beijing.

Last-minute Appeals

China refuses to say how many prisoners it puts to death each year, though Amnesty International estimates it is in the thousands, far above the number executed anywhere else in the world. The San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation estimated that China executed 5,000 people in 2009. There was no immediate Chinese media coverage of the Filipino man’s execution. While death penalty cases involving corrupt officials, terror suspects or violent criminals are routinely reported, many lower-profile cases go uncovered by the tightly controlled Chinese press. On Thursday, the official Xinhua News Agency published a report and photos of two convicted Chinese gang leaders executed in the southern megacity of Chongqing on Wednesday. Xinhua said the female gang boss forced 120 women into prostitution between 1994 and 2009. She and one of her male associates were put to death. In March, China executed three Filipino workers also convicted of smuggling heroin despite last-minute appeals and political concessions by Philippine leaders. The Philippine government said it was able to prove that a drug syndicate had taken advantage of the Filipinos. The head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Jose Gutierrez Jr. said earlier that authorities were looking for the recruiter of the executed drug mule. Gutierrez said the man convicted in China had previously engaged in drug trafficking and was paid $4,000 to $6,000 for every smuggling operation. “I just want to inform you that our compatriot has been executed,” Binay, who was in Indonesia to attend the Bali Democracy Forum, told Filipino reporters in Manila via Skype. Binay, who is also presidential adviser on overseas Filipino worker (OFW) concerns, said he received the information from the Philippine Consulate in Guangzhou. He said at 7 a.m. Thursday, the four relatives of the condemned Filipino attended a Mass at the hotel where they were billeted before they proceeded to visit him in jail. Binay said the relatives were able to meet the convict twice—before and after the court ruling was read by the Guilin Municipal Intermediate People’s Court. “At around 8:30 a.m., the Filipino met with Philippine Consulate officials for 10 minutes, and with his family and Father Emil for 25 minutes. They met him again between 9:45 and 10:15 a.m. After that, the Filipino was transferred to Liuzhou for the execution,” he said. Binay said the relatives were not allowed to accompany the Filipino to Liuzhou. Binay said he expected the relatives to identify the Filipino’s body later Thursday and that the body was expected to be repatriated by next week. The relatives are expected to return to Manila Friday, he said.

Sick Mother

Binay said the Filipino’s name had not been revealed upon the request of the family because they were worried about how his sick mother would take the news of his death. In a statement, the Filipino’s family said: “Needless to say, we are devastated by these developments … It is a very difficult time for us and we are trying our best, through prayers, to cope with the situation. We urge our countrymen to pray with our family.” “On behalf of our entire family, we would like to request all media to refrain from contacting any of us during this sensitive time. This is a private matter and we hope that the media would respect our wishes,” they added. Binay said the Filipino was not an OFW and that he entered Chinese territory as a tourist.

Deep Sadness

“It is with deep sadness that we report the execution of our fellow Filipino in China,” said Raul Hernandez, spokesperson of the Department of Foreign Affairs. “The life of every Filipino is valuable and we mourn with the family. We empathize with the family’s pain. We do not want other Filipinos to go through the same experience,” he said. Hernandez said the Filipino’s body would be flown to the Philippines “within four to six days.” Citing accounts of relatives, Hernandez said the Filipino first traveled as a tourist to Macau and briefly worked as a security guard there. He then returned home and took computer and nursing aide courses but failed to finish both. In 2008, he traveled to China via Kuala Lumpur and was arrested in Guilin. Hernandez said that as of now, “we have about 70 Filipinos sentenced to death with two years reprieve (in China), meaning after two years, the sentence could be changed to life imprisonment depending on their good behavior while in detention.”

With reports from Norman Bordadora, Tarra Quismundo, AP and AFP