By Michaela P. del Callar and Danessa O. Rivera
The Daily Tribune
China has rejected a Philippine request to allow Vice President Jejomar Binay to hand carry President Aquino’s letter to Chinese leader Hu Jintao in Beijing asking him to spare the life of a convicted Filipino drug trafficker set for execution on Dec. 8, the Department of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.
“The Chinese government has informed the Philippine government that the verdict of the Supreme People’s Court of China is final and executory,” DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said. “We have also been informed that the Chinese side is unable to arrange the visit of Vice President Binay to China at this time,” he added.
The 35-year-old Filipino man, who smuggled 1.495 kilos of heroin in China in 2008 will be put to death through lethal injection. He will be the fourth Filipino drug courier to die in China this year. The three others before him — two women and a man — smuggled between 4,000 and 6,800 grams of heroin each.
Beijing, however, said they will do everything to assist the family of the convicted Filipino national to come to China to visit their relative, Hernandez said.
In a separate statement, Vice President Jejomar Binay said he remains “optimistic” that he will be allowed to go to China.
“I feel that Beijing has not totally closed its doors to my visit so I can personally hand over the appeal of President Aquino,” Binay said as he called on the Filipino people to offer prayers for their unnamed compatriot in death row.
Although the decision is deemed final, Binay said the government will pursue its appeal “on humanitarian grounds, and the passionate plea of the family for compassion.”
Due to scarce jobs and low wages at home, many impoverished Filipinos are lured into drug-trafficking in exchange for huge sums.
In China, 70 Filipinos involved in drug trafficking were sentenced to death with 2 year reprieve, meaning their sentences will be commuted to lesser penalty if they show good behavior while in prison. Another 45 were meted life imprisonment, 80 with fixed-term sentences, while 12 more whose cases are pending await court decisions.
Despite government crackdown on drug syndicates, Filipino drug couriers continue to flourish.
Filipino women and lately even men are being hired by West African drug syndicates to transport prohibited drugs abroad — mainly to Asia and South America — by putting it either in their luggage or ingesting it.
A person caught in possession of illegal drugs in the amount of more than 50 grams is meted the death penalty in China if convicted.
Binay went on a mission to China in February to save three Filipino drug mules from death row, and secured a temporary stay of execution, but Beijing went ahead with the executions a month later.
They triggered widespread condemnation in the country, where capital punishment was abolished in 2006.
The Palace, nevertheless, said it had not lost hope in the remote possibility of the Chinese government commuting the death sentence on the Filipino.
Deputy Presidential spokesman Abigail Valte said the government remains optimistic that the convicted Filipino in China will be given commutation as the government is doing everything it can
Valte added the Palace is still hopeful that Binay will be allowed to personally appeal to the Chinese government for commutation.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is taking action to make a personal appeal also on the part of the vice president for whatever they can do to seek a commutation,” she said.
Right now, Malacañang is waiting for the DFA’s advisory on the exact date Binay will leave for Beijing, China, as it is currently negotiating with the Chinese government to be cleared. Binay was was instructed to go to Beijing to deliver President Aquino’s letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao, appealing for the commutation of the Filipino’s sentence.
Valte also reiterated the government’s warning to Filipinos against being victimized by drug syndicates in transporting contrabands.
However, the Valte noted reports of a lower number of Filipinos involved in drug trafficking although details are still to be verified.
Earlier, Aquino said his administration will remain relentless in its fight against illegal drugs and its distribution, following the verdict of the Chinese Supreme People’s Court (SPC) which affirmed a lower court’s ruling on the imposition of the death penalty on the Filipino drug courier.
The President said he wrote to President Hu Jintao, appealing for commutation for the Filipino convicted of smuggling huge amounts of illegal drugs in China.
He also said the government would never tire in warning the people against being victimized by drug syndicates to transport their contraband, noting that drugs is a problem worldwide, especially in China where the capital punishment when convicted is death sentence.
He pointed out that his administration is working towards strengthening the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in order to increase the anti-illegal drug agency’s ability to interdict drug syndicates especially within our shores going out and coming in.