Drug mules are victims, says group; PH gov’t told to address root causes, go after syndicates, coddlers

Global alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) Migrante International today slammed what it called a “defeatist stance” by the Deparment of Foreign Affairs (DFA) with regard negotiations for the lives of three Filipinos who are scheduled to be executed by the Chinese government for drug trafficking.

According to Migrante International secretary-general Gina Esguerra, “Sa tono na ngayon ng DFA, parang sila na mismo ang nagsesentensya sa ating mga kababayan. Did our government give up already?”

Esguerra said that the government should exert more and all efforts since “drug mules are victims”.

“So-called drug mules are either victims of syndicates or victims of poverty and hopelessness. Kapit sa patalim na ang ating mga kababayan. So while we respect the laws and processes of the Chinese government, we wonder just how the Philippine government has negotiated on behalf of our fellow Filipinos. They have not been transparent with their efforts up to now.”

She said that last year, after news came out that a number of Filipinos are facing the death penalty in China on drug trafficking charges, DFA Undersecretary Esteban Conejos issued a statement advising them to “behave in prison to get pardon.”

According to Migrante’s monitoring, 195 Filipinos were arrested in China as of February last year on drug-related cases. Ten (10) were sentenced to death without reprieve while 56 were given the chance to be reprieved in two years. Thirty (30) were sentenced to life imprisonment while 44 were given 15 years. The remaining 55 were still under court hearings.

Esguerra explained that most if not all of the Filipinos who act as drug mules/couriers are either OFWs in distress or victims of illegal recruitment or human trafficking. “Even PDEA chief Dionisio Santiago confirmed this by stating that Filipinos who are desperate for money are the ones victimized by international drug syndicates.”

“If only our Philippine authorities have been more watchful over the plight of Filipinos here and abroad and have provided them much-needed assistance, they would not be forced to engage with drug syndicates. Instead of dousing their hopes, give them protection,” she said.

Migrante International and other concerned organizations will hold a candle-lighting rally at the Timog Circle later this afternoon to call on the Aquino government to save the lives of Filipinos in death row in China. ###