Drugs, Death, and Politics

I saw it coming nine months ago while I was writing a PH.CN article about Mrs. Sally Villanueva, a “kababayan”, sentenced to death in Mainland China for drug trafficking.  Knowing in hindsight that there are 70 Filipino death convicts in Mainland China and 45 life-termers and 80 serving lighter sentences and 208 drug cases involving Filipinos in Macau and Hong Kong, China, I knew it would be a recurring issue.

Last Thursday, another “kababayan” faced the same fate that Villanueva had nine months ago. But the feelings of compassion I had for Mrs. Villanueva and her family was different from the feelings I had for the 35-year old from Bataan. In the same way, the attitude I had for the Philippine government and so-called Filipino migrant groups was also different.

Villanueva, I am convinced, was a victim of West African Drug Syndicate (WADS). She was duped by WADS local operatives in the Philippines that there is a job waiting for her in the Mainland. Eager to provide for her hungry family, she took on the promised job. And while her heart is filled with hopes that she finally had her big break, WADS operatives had filled her bags with illegal drugs. Villanueva was an unwitting drug courier. Villanueva was caught by airport police, tried in court with the presence of Filipino representatives from our Consulate in Guangzhou, detained for three years, and executed last March.

On the other hand, the 35-year old and former “sekyu” from Bataan, are one of those under the list of Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) of being suspected as a drug courier. This man is way different from Mrs. Villanueva. This man earns US$2000 to US$4000 for every successful delivery of his groups’ goodies in Southeast Asia and Mainland China. On off-season this man and his brotherhood of couriers are one of those Filipino “bakasyonitas” in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Macau.

This man from Bataan is no Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW), the so-called “bagong bayani” who through their blood, sweat, and tears keeps the economy afloat. This man and his brotherhood of couriers are one of the reasons why Filipinos are experiencing racial profiling in airports in Indonesia and Malaysia and China and Japan and elsewhere. This man is one of the reasons why our country has become some sort of a plague in our region. No wonder, this man’s family, knowing his trade even before he was caught by “jingcha 警察”, has requested the Philippine government to make the man’s name unknown to the media.

We all know what kind of mayhem illegal drugs can bring into a society and the Chinese government has made it clear for the longest time that trading illegal drugs in the Mainland is equivalent to death. But syndicates continue to cross the line. The demand for illegal drugs (and foreign prostitutes) in Mainland are ramping in prosperous Chinese cities and the lure of “renmenbi” is simply irresistible.

Since early 2000, illegal drug syndicates (notorious of which is the WADS) have been using Filipinos to act as their conduits for their illegal operations in Southeast and Northeast Asia. Recognizing the dire need of some of our “kababayans” to work abroad and provide for their family and the greediness of local “tulaks” to earn green backs, our English-speaking “kababayans” have become the ideal candidate to transport illegal drugs from one country to another.

Our government knows this fact. PDEA has been providing key information to our government officials about the ins and outs of this illegal trade. As a matter of fact, because of our government officials’ tenacity to crush this illegal operation within our territory, WADS and similar syndicates and their Filipino agents have changed their game plan. From the Philippines, they settled somewhere in Indo-China region and thru their local cohorts are now luring Filipinos (mostly male) to go to Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand for some non-existent work or for some bogus scholarship grant.

Chinese government officials and the Chinese media know this modus operandi as well. They very well know that there are two kinds of Filipino drug couriers – those who are hired agents like the man from Bataan and those who are simply fooled like Mrs. Villanueva. And we, Filipinos, know very well that the Chinese government does not distinguish which one is the Real McCoy. In China, as long as you caught carrying drugs into their country, regardless of circumstances, you’ll end up in jail and face the penalty of death. For the record, no government has ever succeeded in asking the Chinese government in commuting a death sentence to a person convicted of drug trafficking.

Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay and Migrante International know these realities as well. Hence, I was so surprised to see VP Binay exercising the same futile exercise he did last March. We saw him again, asking mercy from the Chinese government to commute or suspend the sentence. “Para que?” The 35-year old man is under the watch list of PDEA. The man was given full assistance from our diplomatic officials in China from the day he was caught up to the day it was announced that he will face the death penalty. The man is one of those dreaded hired drug mules.

I understand that VP Binay is a politician or should I say a compassionate man. I experience this once personally when he visited the wake of my aunt many years ago. Well, as a mayor of Makati, he is known to visit the wake of almost every Makati folks grieving for their deceased loved ones. This is aside from the P2000 a year and birthday cakes for Makati senior citizens. But VP Binay should remember that he is not a mayor of a small city any longer, he is now the Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines. The same goes with the Leftist Migrante International who was very vocal against the execution of the convicted drug trafficker while at the same time burning an effigy of the Philippine president. Talk about compassion and hatred.

This misplaced compassion has made our country a laughing stock among the Chinese media and elsewhere in the region. How come the Philippine government is so quick in asking for mercy for someone who has caused shame for the Philippines? Why should China not execute this man whose illegal trade is causing mayhem to Chinese families and society? What kind of strange politics do the Philippines have? They wonder.

Yes, we can pray, as I also had prayed for the man, but to make an official appeal to the Chinese government and to conduct a public demonstration for the convicted drug trafficker’s sake is something that is quiet disturbing. “Por favor”, can we give our country a sense of dignity. Why paint this false picture of public sympathy? Why should we appear as a weakling to China?

Indeed, Filipino politicians and our 1001 non-governmental organizations’ way of doing politics can be very strange. In the words of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, author of the humorously named Anti-Epal Bill everyone and anyone in Philippine politics tends to be an “epal” for the sake of public recognition and/or future votes.

To my mind, the better way to deal with this particular case and future cases, would be to show no compassion for drug traffickers (regardless of nationality) and to respect the decision the Chinese courts whatever it is. Let the will of the courts and let God’s will be done. At the same time, our government should do every effort possible to remove the stigma that Filipino overseas travelers are potential drug mules. That effort starts with effective and proactive law enforcement, efficient coordination with consulates and embassies and foreign governments, and most importantly – political will.

In a related matter, many Chinese with dubious Filipino nationality (Tsinoys) are serving their sentences in Bilibid because of drug trafficking. Several years ago, Titosen (Sen. Tito Sotto) and then Cong. Ruffy Biazon (now BOC chief) told me that these bad “Tsinoys” are brazenly operating their wicked trade even in prison. They further told me that the main reason why drug syndicates makes our country their favorite hub is because of our country’s weak law enforcement and the absence of death penalty. I absolutely agree.


Kudos to our Philippine Consulate in Xiamen and to Guangzhou Municipal Foreign Affairs Office for rescuing five Filipino women duped into prostitution in the Mainland.

Congratulations to the Philippine Memory Team for placing 2nd (after Team China) in the recently concluded 20th World Memory Championship held in Guangdong, China. The Philippine team bested other teams from the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Singapore, Canada, Germany, Italy, Poland, Uzbekistan, South Africa, India, Hongkong, Malaysia, Maldives, and Indonesia.



J. Sun E.

Sun, a Filipino based in China, writes PH.CN on ProPinoy, a weekly column on Philippines-China relations, politics, history, and current events. He studied Political Science, History, and Foreign Languages in Philippines and China. Follow him on Twitter @phdotcn