Monday, March 28, 2011

A Repost From Leslie Ann G. Aquino and Ellson A. Quismorio of Manila Bulletin

Doomed Filipinos meet families for the last time

MANILA, Philippines - Three Filipinos scheduled to be executed Wednesday, March 30, 2011, after they were sentenced to death for drug trafficking will have the chance to meet their respective families for the last time on the day of their execution.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the families of Sally Ordinario Villanueva and Ramon Credo arrived in Beijing Sunday while the relatives of Elizabeth Batain are expected to be there Tuesday.

Reports said Villanueva's relatives carried with them a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao, which they hope to personally deliver, appealing for clemency in behalf of the three Filipinos.

DFA Spokesman Ed Malaya said that based on the advice they received, the sentence will be carried out early Wednesday.

''If China will announce a lastminute change of heart, it will likely do so through our embassy in Beijing. That is the speediest way,'' Malaya said in a radio interview.

Credo and Villanueva will be executed in Xiamen. On the other hand, Batain's execution will be carried out in Shenzhen.

The Supreme People's Court of China affirmed the death sentences of the three Filipinos last February 11 for drug trafficking. The executions were originally scheduled last Feb. 20 and 21, but it was put on hold following Vice President Jejomar Binay's humanitarian mission to Beijing.

Chinese Embassy Spokesman Ethan Sun told the Manila Bulletin earlier that discussions are already undergoing for the remains of Credo, Villanueva, and Batain to be brought home after the death sentences have been carried out.

''The release of the remains of (the executed) foreign nationals is usually doable,'' Sun said. ''I think that the detailed arrangements would be consulted among the Philippine diplomatic missions and the related Chinese authorities.''

Based on the Criminal Procedure Law of China Article 212, the judicial officer directing the execution shall verify the identity of the criminal, ask him if he has any last words or letters, and then deliver him to the executioner for the execution of the death sentence.

Execution of the death sentences shall be announced but shall not be held in public. After a death sentence is executed, the People's Court that caused the death sentence to be executed shall notify the family members of the criminal.

After the carrying out of the sentence, the next of kin have two options for the disposition of the remains of the individual - the cremation of the remains, and its return or repatriation to the habitual place of residence, particularly if a foreign national.

If the criminal is a foreign national, the shipment may take weeks after the carrying out of the sentence.

In some areas of China, there is no specific execution ground.

A scout team chooses a place in advance to serve as the execution ground.

In such case, the execution ground normally will have three perimeters: the innermost 50 meters is the responsibility of the execution team; the 200 meter radius from the center is the responsibility of the People's Armed Police; and the 2-kilometer alert line is the responsibility of the local police.

The public is generally not allowed to view the execution.

Meanwhile, a high ranking DFA official downplayed the claims made by Jason, the brother of Villanueva, that he was advised by another DFA official for him to penetrate the drug syndicate ring in the hopes of proving the innocence of his sister.

''No one in his right mind, much less an official of the DFA, would give such an advice,'' the DFA source told Manila Bulletin.

Slim chance

Meanwhile, Vice President Jejomar Binay reckoned that the affidavit executed by Sally naming her recruiter as the source of the drugs she carried to China shows that she was merely used by a drug syndicate and therefore does not deserve the death penalty.

''We hope and pray that her affidavit would be considered. We do not condone drug trafficking, but in Sally's case, her recruiter clearly took advantage of her trusting nature,'' Binay said Monday.

The Vice President noted that under Chinese law, the severest form of penalty is given to leaders of drug syndicates, and allows leniency for those in lower positions.

''This is the basis for our appeal to China. These drug syndicates took advantage of the economic difficulties of our kababayan (countrymen),'' added Binay, who is the Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers' (OFW) concerns.

In an affidavit from Xiamen, Villanueva, 32, said one Mapet Cortez alias ''Tita Cacayan,'' whom she originally met in Macau, befriended her and offered her a job of carrying mobile phones from China to be sold in the Philippines. Jobless at that time and trusting her friend, Villanueva accepted the offer and processed her documents with a travel agency.

On December 22, 2008, Cortez called Villanueva telling the latter that her flight to China was ready. Villanueva was to fly to Xiamen from Manila via China Southern Airlines flight CZ378 after two days.

Cortez provided Villanueva with a seemingly empty silver-grey suitcase that the latter used for her travel. Cortez gave her $500 pocket money and the name and phone number of the person she needed to contact in China. Cortez also told her that she would earn P25,000 monthly if she would be able to get in touch with the said contact person.

Upon arrival in Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport, Villanueva was arrested by Chinese Customs agents after they discovered two bags of white powder weighing 4,110 stuffed inside the silver-grey suitcase from Cortez.

Prayer vigil

The Catholic Church will hold a prayer vigil Tuesday for the three overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) set for execution in China.

The prayer vigil, which will start with a mass at 6 p.m. at the Nuestra Senora de Guia Parish Shrine in Ermita, Manila, will be spearheaded by Fr. Edwin Corros, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People and the Archdiocese of Manila's Ministry for Migrants.

After the mass, there will be a recitation of the rosary until 8 p.m.

Over the weekend, Jesus is Lord (JIL) leader Bro. Eddie Villanueva also called on all Christian churches to pray for the granting of clemency to the three Filipinos. (With reports from Leslie Ann G. Aquino and Ellson A. Quismorio)

Reposted From Leslie Ann G. Aquino and Ellson A. Quismorio of Manila Bulletin

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