The family of a Filipina who is currently on death row in China for drug smuggling charges is appealing to the Philippine government for help.
"Mahal naming presidente, kung maaari po, tulungan mo po ang anak ko na walang kamalay-malay nalalagay sa alanganin, nakikusap po ako sa inyo (To our dear president, please help my daughter who is innocent but was put in a undesirable situation, I am begging you)," Soledad Sarmienta said in an interview with GMA News.
Sarmienta made the appeal for her 43-year-old daughter, Gemma Sagido, who is in danger of being executed in China. Sagido was arrested in July 2007 at the Shenzhen International Airport for smuggling one kilogram of heroin.
Drug trafficking of 50 grams or more of highly prohibited drugs like heroin is punishable by death in China and its territories.
But Sarmienta said her daughter was only recruited to transport gold from Malaysia to China for P20,000.
“Wala hong kasalanan ang anak ko kung hindi itong mga taong nasa paligid ko, taga-lugar pa po namin ang gumawa sa amin ng ganyan (My daughter is innocent, the ones at fault are the people around me, they were the ones who put her in that situation)," she said.
HOW DRUGS ARE HIDDEN
Drug syndicates have found ingenious ways of smuggling thousands of dollars worth of prohibited substances.
One of the most common ways of smuggling drugs through human “mules" is by making them swallow plastic capsules containing several kilograms of the illegal narcotics. Others have died using this method.
But perhaps the some of the newest modus operandi of these drug gangs involve “conveniently" sewing drugs inside the Filipino mules’ “abdominal cavity" and placing the substance inside a condom and tucking it inside a woman's genitals
She said that in the one year that Sagido was in jail, they received only one letter from her because of the strict security. She added that even if they go to China to see her, they would only be given five minutes with her daughter.
In a letter sent to the family, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that Sagido has been given a two-year reprieve, meaning she will not be executed in a span of two years while the department negotiates her sentence.
Filipinos as drug couriers
According to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), about 500 Filipinos are languishing in jails abroad for drug-related cases.
In Chinese territories alone, Philippine Ambassador to Beijing Sonia Brady reported that a total of 158 Filipinos – mostly women – have been arrested for drug trafficking as of June 7. [See: Number of Filipino drug mules increasing]
PDEA director Dionisio Santiago told GMA News that they suspect a West African syndicate to be behind all the drug-smuggling operations overseas.
Roel Bolivar, deputy commander of the National Bureau of Investigation Anti-Legal Drugs Task Force, said the slow execution of justice is the reason why these syndicates remain rampant.
“Napakabagal tumakbo yung hustisya so kapag mabagal yung hustisya, maraming chances yung mga taong ito na magkaroon ng pagkakataon na makaligtas (The execution of justice is so slow, when it’s that’s slow, these kind of people have more chances to get away)," he told GMA News.
In the meantime, Santiago advised Filipinos to be weary of suspicious job offers abroad.
“Wag kayo basta-basta maengganyo ng (Don’t be so easily enticed by the) dollar or travel to other countries, be very cautious," he said.
In an earlier report, the PDEA chief said that the agency is already working on a memorandum of agreement with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to help prevent Filipinos from being used as drug couriers. [See: PDEA moves to shield OFWs from drug rings]
Filipinos on death row
The DFA has said that the number of overseas Filipinos on death row stands at 57, down from 59 after the commutation of the death sentence of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Taiwan and the reversal of another in Malaysia. [See: After Vecina, 57 more OFWs still on death row]
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr. said most of the 57 remaining cases involve offenses such as rape, drug smuggling, and homicide in China, Malaysia, Kuwait, Brunei, United States and Saudi Arabia.
Of the total, 48 are facing death for drug-related charges, mostly in Chinese jails. China gives a two-year reprieve for foreign nationals with death sentences, giving them a chance at commutation for good behavior.
DFA records show that a total of 87 Filipinos have been placed on death row since January 2006.
DFA officials could not provide any figures on the number of Filipinos executed abroad but Migrante International said its tally under the Arroyo administration was six, the latest of whom was Jenifer Bidoya a.k.a. Venancio Ladion who was executed in Jeddah in 2008 for killing a Saudi man. [See: Saudi man killed by OFW from a conservative clan]
The department could not also give a specific number of Filipinos languishing in jails abroad, but data previously released by Migrante placed the total at almost 5,000 Filipinos all over the world, particularly in several Middle Eastern countries.
The DFA said most of the cases are minor ones, including alcohol-related offenses, gambling and illicit affairs, which are considered crimes in most Mideastern countries, particularly in Saudi Arabia, home to some 1.2 million Filipinos. - Kimberly Jane Tan, GMANews.TV