DONKEY WORK. Despite the name, a drug mule is actually a person who smuggles something with him or her across a national border in exchange for money. AP photoAlarmed over the spate of jailed Filipino workers in China, an advocacy group urged the Philippine government to form a special task force to crack down on international drug rings luring mostly women migrants.
The Blas F. Ople Policy Center, a non-government organization involved in helping distressed overseas workers, said the task force should include the immigration, airport and drug enforcement agencies.
According to Susan Ople, the group’s president, Nigerian syndicates often escape persecution after persuading female aspiring overseas Filipino workers to transport luggage in exchange for cash.
"In the end, it is our own citizens that are put in jail while the ringleaders of these syndicates remain scot-free," Susan Ople, the group’s leader, said.
Last week, Philippine Consul General in Guangzhou Joselito Jimeno said 95 Filipinos are currently languishing in various jails in Chinese territories – four of whom are on death row. Asean countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam have only about 10 to 20 jailed nationals each. [See: RP has most jailed drug mules in China]
The Department of Foreign Affairs said around 500 Filipinos are in various jails around the world due to drug smuggling, with 210 of them detained in China alone.
Jimeno said unsuspecting Filipinos are usually duped by foreign drug syndicates, even sometimes through fellow Filipinos, into smuggling illegal drugs for $500 to $2,000 a trip.
Drugs on shirts, pregnant ‘mules’
Drug syndicates have devised ingenious ways to sneak prohibited substances into other Asian countries using Filipino mules.
Ople cited the arrest of a Filipina caught with five kilograms of cocaine at the Puduraya bus station in Malaysia last week. The drugs were diluted and dried with an assortment of t-shirts found in her baggage.
The 45-year old suspect was said to have received US$ 3,000 (RM 10, 596) from a foreign drug trafficking syndicate. She has been charged under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1952, which carries the mandatory death penalty upon conviction.
Ople said that there was another case of a Filipino woman arrested and charged last February in Shanghai, China for bringing in 60 cylinder-shaped articles wrapped in scotch tape found inside her body which contained 607 grams of heroin.
During the trial, the suspect admitted that she swallowed 60 capsules of drugs but had no idea
that the capsules contained heroin.
The Filipina claimed that she followed the instructions of the syndicate because her mother was seriously ill and she has many children to support.
In consideration of her voluntary admission, the Shanghai court rendered a sentence of 15 years fixed term imprisonment, rather than the death penalty.
Ople suspected that some syndicates were using pregnant women as drug mules to reduce suspicion and in the hope that the "mules" when caught, would be given a lighter sentence.
’No country will tolerate drug trafficking’
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Liu JIanchao said Beijing is seeking stronger cooperation with Manila to curb drug trafficking.
"We are firmly against drug trafficking. We need help from the Philippine side to contain and fight drug trafficking and also the other way around, the Philippines also needs China," Liu said.
Despite good bilateral relations between the two countries, the envoy noted that those Filipinos caught carrying prohibited drugs to China “should be treated in accordance with the law."
"For drug traffickers we do punish them very harshly because that’s a very, very bad crime and no country will tolerate drug trafficking and drug traffickers. It’s one of the worst things and the worst crimes in the world," Liu said.
Liu said no Filipino has been executed for drug trafficking although several have been meted death penalty.
"Though they were imposed the death sentence, under Chinese laws there is a two-year
probation period for those on death row, meaning if they behave well in prison it’s likely that they will not be executed," Liu said.
In recent months, Filipina drug mules have been transiting Vietnam and Cambodia to smuggle drugs to China.
Upon direction by a Nigerian drug syndicate, a Filipino contact in China gives or promises the mule a salary ranging from US$2,000 to US$3,000 per trip. - GMANews.TV