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 nung ipahayag nila kahapon na tuloy na tuloy na ang pagbibitay. 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 how the Philippine government has negotiated on behalf of our fellow Filipinos.”

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 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.

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

He cited the case of Glory Santos, a single mom who also looked over her ailing parents and younger siblings. Since her meager monthly salary of P6,000 was far from enough, she went to China as a tourist to look for work. After her 2 months of unsuccessful efforts to land a job, she was lured to carry a baggage of heroin in exchange for US$2,000. Santos has P20,000 worth of accumulated debts during her two month stay. Glory was sentenced for 13 years of imprisonment after her arrest in 2008.

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