Appeal for Filipino on China death row

Paterno Esmaquel II
The Filipina, whom the DFA did not identify, will face the death penalty any time between Thursday and Monday, July 2

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday, June 27, appealed for the life of a 35-year-old Filipina who is set for execution in China for drug trafficking, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Raul Hernandez said.

Hernandez said the Filipina, whom the DFA did not identify, will face the death penalty any time between Thursday and Monday, July 2.

The Supreme People’s Court (SPC) in Beijing on Wednesday, June 26, affirmed a lower court’s decision sentencing the Filipina to death, Hernandez said. The woman was convicted for smuggling 6.198 kilos of heroin in China.

She “has been going back and forth” from Dubai, Hong Kong, and China up to 18 times since 2008, the spokesman said. For each of these 18 rounds, she was supposedly paid $3,000 to $4,000 (P132,000 to P172,000). 

The charge means she earned up to P3 million from 2008 until 2011, when she was apprehended.

Companion is 27

She was arrested with a male Filipino who carried 6.171 kilos of heroin. Her companion, who was only 27, was sentenced to death penalty with a two-year reprieve because he was merely an accessory.

Both came from Metro Manila, Hernandez said. The woman first went to China on a tourist visa.

In appealing for the Filipina, Aquino wrote a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping, and sent this through the Chinese embassy in Manila then through the Philippine embassy in China. 

“The appeal letter states that for humanitarian reasons, this sentence should be commuted to life imprisonment. And this will allow the Filipina to have a second lease on her life, and to reform and be able to productively contribute to society,” Hernandez said.

He added, “At the same time, the President stated that she is destitute, the family is destitute, and she has two kids to take care of.” 

Failed appeals

Hernandez admitted, however, that the Philippines failed in previous appeals for Filipinos on death row in China. “We had other cases before – 4 cases – but in the end, the 4 were executed,” he said. 

The spokesman noted 213 drug-related cases in China involve Filipino nationals.

He also said the Philippines “respects Chinese law,” as well as SPC’s verdict on the Filipina. He said the Philippines itself “has a strong anti-illegal drug policy.”

“We appeal to all Filipinos not to allow themselves to be involved in drug trafficking and to be extremely cautious when dealing with strangers in airports and other areas of transit. We call for personal vigilance and responsibility on the part of Filipinos who travel abroad,” Hernandez added. –

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at