MANILA, Philippines – While commiserating with the families of the three Filipinos put to death in China for drug trafficking, a recruitment agency leader Thursday said the term OFW? (or overseas Filipino worker) should not be used to refer to the convicts.
Alfredo Palmiery, president of Federated Association of Manpower Exporters Inc., Thursday said
Sally Villanueva, Ramon Credo and Elizabeth Batain, who were executed by lethal injection on Wednesday, had no record of being OFWs.
They were never hired by any legitimate agency, they had no working contracts [and] working visas, and they were lured into transporting illegal drugs by a foreign syndicate preying on jobless Filipinos looking to make a quick buck.
It is an insult to the millions of OFWs all over the world to call the three OFWs as they had no intention to work in China and were merely convinced to travel as tourists to bring contraband into China.
Palmiery pointed out that legitimate OFWs had all the necessary documents to prove that they were legally hired to work at government-approved jobs, and that as OFWs, they are ready to comply with the laws of the host countries.?
The executions were the fault of the government offices that allowed these drug mules to leave the country with the contraband hidden in their suitcases.
How these drug mules were able to leave undetected … is something our airport officials have to explain?
Villanueva, Batain and Credo were separately caught in China in 2008 with 4-6 kilos of heroin in their luggage.
The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) has promised to prevent a repeat of such cases through stringent measures to detect drugs on the persons or in the luggage of passengers flying overseas.
Thirty upgraded X-ray scanners at Ninoy Aquino International Airport now enable security officers to spot even a few grams of illegal substances in bags, according to Vicente Guerzon, MIAA assistant general manager for security and emergency services.
It’s not only for China. Our efforts are for all countries so that no one will no longer be able to slip past us he said, adding that the scanners could also detect weapons and explosives.
Guerzon said the MIAA was also in the process of acquiring full-body scanners that would enable security officers to detect drugs in the body.
Asked about a possible collusion between security officers or personnel and drug couriers, Guerzon said: ?It needs to be proven. So far, there have been no charges, and no one has filed a complaint.?
But he acknowledged the possibility of ?human and technical glitches in the airport security checks.
An insider at the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) said the Department of Transportation and Communications had formed a technical working group to look into how drug mules managed to slip out of the country.
The OTS oversees the X-ray scanners but the Philippine Drug Enforcement Authority (PDEA) has jurisdiction over all drug cases, said the insider, who asked not to be named for lack of authority to discuss the issue publicly.
He claimed the PDEA lacked personnel to inspect all departing passengers and their luggage.
Focus on syndicates
Philippine National Police Director General Raul Bacalzo said he had ordered PNP units nationwide to step up operations against foreign syndicates using Filipinos as drug mules.
Bacalzo told reporters that while he was satisfied with the Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force?s raids on illegal drug laboratories, the PNP?s primary antinarcotics unit should take the lead in government?s efforts to stem drug trafficking.
He said he had also instructed the PNP Aviation Security Group to be on guard for persons transporting banned drugs through the airports.
?The important thing is for the PNP to be more vigilant and maintain our own profiling of suspected drug mules,? he said.
?Besides, those being victimized by the syndicates are fellow Filipinos who also fall victim to illegal recruiters.?
The Department of Foreign Affairs is also preparing to launch an intensified campaign against international drug syndicates using Filipinos as couriers, Assistant Foreign Secretary J. Eduardo Malaya said Thursday. But he did not provide details.
Malaya earlier told the Inquirer that the 70-plus Filipinos on death row in China for drug smuggling ?should serve as a wake-up call? to Filipino travelers.
?No amount of money can ever justify taking the risks involved in breaking the law,? he said.
Malaya has repeatedly appealed to Filipino travelers ?not to allow themselves to be victims of international drug syndicates.?
?We should take responsibility for our own actions and, at the very least, be always on guard against inducement … Refrain from bringing any package for others, even supposed new employers or friends,? he said.
Filling the gaps
Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo has filed House Bill No. 4503 (or the proposed Anti-Drug Mule Act of 2011), which aims to fill the gaps in current laws against drugs and human trafficking.
Quimbo said there was an immediate need to establish the framework of a law that would view drug mules as victims of drug traffickers.
He said the Wednesday executions in China should be seen as the tipping point in the government?s resolve to prosecute drug pushers and traffickers.
Quimbo said the drug-mule scheme was preying on the vulnerability of Filipinos wanting to earn from the trade in illegal drugs.
?March 30, 2011, is an unfortunate and tragic day and puts us lawmakers on the spot because our current laws against drugs and human trafficking have gaps that are prone to abuse,? he said.
San Juan City Rep. Joseph Victor ?JV? Ejercito called on the government to restore the 50-percent cut on the Legal Assistance Fund for OFWs worldwide.
He said the fund was necessary to assist OFWs accused of crimes in other countries.
Ejercito said the constraints implemented by the Aquino administration on the 2011 national budget was one of the reasons government assistance to OFWs had become very limited.
He cited the computations of Migrante International showing that a meager P7,000 was now allotted to each OFW after the fund?s total budget was cut by half.
Migrante-Middle East (M-ME) based in Saudi Arabia is calling on Vice President Jejomar Binay to ?do your best? to save the lives of eight OFWs on death row in the Middle East kingdom.
M-ME regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona said Binay is on a four-day official visit to Riyadh to ?plead to the host government to show mercy? on the Filipinos, among them Don Lanuza, Rolando Gonzales, Edison Gonzales and Eduardo Arcilla.
In an e-mail to the Inquirer, Monterona also expressed hope that ?our calls to the Aquino administration to work hard in saving the lives of OFWs on death row would be met with all seriousness and a proactive stance.?
M-ME had earlier proposed to Malacañang the creation of an interagency task force that would closely monitor and work for a commutation of the death sentences of 100-plus Filipinos on death row worldwide. Reports from Philip C. Tubeza, DJ Yap, Jerry E. Esplanada, Marlon Ramos and Cynthia D. Balana
This is post has originated from Inquirer.net