Why China?

Just this week, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) regretfully announced the execution of a Filipina drug mule in China, two years after she was caught smuggling drugs to the country. The unnamed convict became the fifth Filipino to be executed for narcotics-related crimes in the mainland. The incident brought back memories of the three Filipinos executed in China in 2011, all were executed for drug trafficking. While that itself is depressing, what’s even more worrying is that she is only one of 28 Filipinos in death row in the communist nation for drug-related convictions and there are dozens more all over the world.

The most common reason why these Filipinos resorted to drug trafficking is the need for money; in fact many of these drug couriers are individuals who are unable to find legitimate employment overseas. There is an estimated ten million Overseas Filipino Workers, and thousands more line up embassies and consulates nationwide everyday seeking greener pastures abroad; while that number seems plenty there are still plenty of applicants who struggle to find employers. Driven by their desperation, these workers are lured by drug syndicates acting as drug couriers with the promise of a high compensation. But is this really a reasonable excuse to commit a crime? The executed Filipina is alleged to have smuggled drugs in and out of China a total of eighteen times from 2008 to her capture in 2011, so one can understand why the Chinese government hold a scant amount of sympathy for her. Yet, there is a loud faction of Filipinos enraged at the Chinese for her fate. But why blame China?

Overseas workers group Migrante calls for the resolution of the cases of Filipinos in death row in China.
Overseas workers group Migrante calls for the resolution of the cases of Filipinos in death row in China.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels once coined a term, lumpenproletariats. According to them, this is the lowest strata of a capitalist society and the ones who resort to crime in response to poverty. That seems to be the case among these drug couriers, not just the convicted Filipinos but to any convicted drug courier in general. They usually come from third world countries and are prompted to carry narcotics as an escape from poverty. However, regardless of one’s financial situation what’s wrong is still wrong.

It is worth noting that these drug couriers act on their own free will, and only on rare occasions do authorities encounter blackmailed or framed cases. In the situation of the latest executed Filipina, it was reported that she has made eighteen trips to China on tourist visas which made her very suspicious. Her brother was also apprehended along with her, and is also in death row. Smuggling drugs eighteen times and bringing your own brother with you in your excursions does not present a hint of innocence, in fact it seemed like she was thriving in her crimes.

Despite this, Filipinos still slammed the Chinese government for not feeling any sympathy for her and the barbaric nature of her punishment. But if she was a Chinese citizen caught smuggling drugs to our country and had the same track record, would we also feel that she deserved sympathy? Filipinos have a penchant for pointing fingers at other people, but fail to even reflect on what went wrong from their own end. Take this case for example, the public criticized China for the inhumane penalty meted out to the Filipina convict but never bothered to address the fact that Filipinos are being recruited each day to carry out the same tasks and are risking future capital punishment penalties.

Instead of crying over spilled milk, isn’t it better to plug the hole before the ship sinks? In other words, there really is no point whining about something which has already happened and instead focus at a problem that grows everyday.

The National Bureau of Investigation uncovered a West African Syndicate group as the faction behind the hiring of Filipino drug couriers. It would be beneficial if authorities and the government direct their efforts in ceasing their operations to avoid further cases in the future. At the same time, the government can redeem itself by settling the cases of the 27 other Filipinos in death row in China, including the executed Filipina’s brother. There is a standing policy in the mainland wherein a death row inmate may be commuted to a life imprisonment instead if there is a reason to spare one’s life, perhaps the government’s negotiators can wrangle good deals for these Filipinos.

However, for the sake of being rational there is really no reason to be angry at the Chinese. The government just did their job and followed their laws, if there was anything we can be mad at them about it’s how effective their justice system is compared to ours. One would make an argument that Filipino narcotics traffickers in China get executed while Chinese traffickers in the Philippines gets freed, but in that scenario isn’t the problem with us? Isn’t it the incompetence and corruption of our justice system that leads to such injustice? If we want to get even with the Chinese on this matter, we should seek to reform our own judiciary first. This incident should also open the eyes of the government to address the serious effects of poverty on Filipinos, that they are being driven to commit such lowly crimes just to escape it. If proper programs were in place to aid people in poverty, perhaps the unknown Filipina would not have resorted to drug trafficking and thus avoiding the fate she suffered.

There are a lot of things that went wrong which led to our fellow Filipino to be executed in a foreign land, but none of those things were on the part of the Chinese government. In fact, the move of the Chinese to ignore our diplomatic plea and carry out with the execution, although pitiful, was the only thing that was right in the series of events for it was carried out according to their laws. This incident was a tragedy, but we can make it positive in the sense that we make the necessary reforms and actions to ensure not only that no Filipino will be sentenced to death overseas in the future, but also that no citizen should ever resort to such a lowly deed such as drug trafficking in order to sustain themselves again. If we are successful in doing so, then we only have China to blame for it.

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