It’s not about whether you’re rich or poor; it’s about whether you knew you were breaking the law

For days, I’ve been reading and watching the news about the government’s efforts to stay the execution of the three Filipinos who had been sentenced to death for smuggling heroin into China. I’m sure that the government, especially the Vice President who has been very much visible these days, is earning a lot of “pogi” points from the OFWs and their families. And not just the three convicted OFWs and their families but OFWs and their families in general. The message is that if they were in the same situation, the government would be exerting this kind of effort for them too.

The facts:

1. The convicted Filipinos were caught smuggling drugs into China.

2. The size of the packages of the drugs make it clear that the packages couldn’t have been inserted into their luggage without their knowledge.

3. Teresita Ang See “who served as an interpreter for Chinese authorities who investigated the cases, said the 3 Filipinos had a deal with drug syndicates” and so knew what they were carrying.


1. The Philippines and China are two independent and sovereign states. Crimes committed in Chinese territory, including those committed by non-Chinese nationals, are subject to Chinese law. And vice versa. Why can’t we just respect China’s right to impose its law?

2. Notwithstanding the data on drug mules, why is the very phenomenon of drug mules being linked directly to lack of jobs locally and the prevailing poverty? There is just as much data to show that people involved in the drug trade are not necessarily poor. Many are in it because it is easy money — a chance to make millions with relatively little work involved.

And it is that attraction that makes me skeptical about claims that if Filipinos weren’t so poor and if they were gainfully employed, none would be involved in the drug trade — which is the very justification being used as to why the government is doing everything to save the three convicted Filipinos from execution.

Yes, it is sad that three fellow Filipinos are now facing the death penalty in China. It is even sadder that hundreds more are languishing in jails in many other parts of the world — also for drug smuggling.

But the thing is, the three Filipinos in China knew they were carrying drugs, they knew it is illegal to bring drugs to China and they knew the risks. And they did it anyway. If those drugs had been merely planted in their luggage without their knowledge nor consent, I’d be more sympathetic. But that’s not the case. In fact, at least one of the three had done it before.

And these aren’t jobless Filipinos — they flew to China armed with employment contracts.

So why is the government spending taxpayers’ money to beg the Chinese government not to carry out the death sentence on these Filipinos? [Read more...]