Want no more drug mules? Reform our agencies – Sotto

The senator, who used to head the Dangerous Drugs Board, says it might be futile to do congressional probes and hunt down drug syndicates abroad

MANILA, Philippines – Sen Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, who once headed the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), said it might be futile for lawmkers to conduct a probe into the case of the Filipina drug mule who was executed in China, and for law enforcers here to hunt down the foreign drug syndicate that used her.

Instead, he said, the Philippines can avoid facing the same problem in the future if we will strengthen, even reform, the agencies that are supposed to protect citizens from getting involved in drug trafficking.

The Chinese government on July 3 executed a Filipino national for drug trafficking, a crime that has caused the death of 4 other Filipinos in China since 2011.

Pinakamaganda, ‘yung time, effort na gusto nating igugol d’yan sa mga imbestigasyon na ‘yan, ibuhos natin ang pondo doon sa information campaign ng gobyerno,” Sotto said in an interview over DZBB radio on Saturday, July 6 (The best course of action to take is to use our funds, time, and efforts on an information campaign instead of conducting those investigations.)

Sotto said the syndicates are probably based abroad, and the Filipino drug couriers are “clean” when they exit and enter the Philippines. They are handed their “goods” at transit points, before they go to China.

He said the funds should just be poured into the DDB, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for an intensified information campaign on how grave the crime of drug trafficking is here and in other countries and how not to fall prey to syndicates.

The funds can be used better too to assist overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who have legitimate concerns.

“Pati kasi mga OFWs natin kababayan ay napapahiya, eh. Hindi naman OFW ang na-charge ng drug trafficking, eh,” Sotto said. (Drug couriers cause OFWs embarrassment. The ones involved in drug trafficking are not OFWs.)

Sotto reiterated his argument that government’s help should be extended only to OFWs and not to drug offenders.

Kung ‘yan ay drug pusher, maghugas na lang tayo ng kamay…. ‘Wag na nating hipuin…kasi ang ibig sabihin n’yan, papaano ang mga drug pushers dito sa Muntinlupa na nakakulong, tutulungan din natin?” Sotto stressed. (If we’re talking of Filipinos arrested abroad because they are drug pushers, then let’s wash our hands. Let’s not pamper them, because if we do, would it mean we are also going to help drug pushers who are jailed in Muntinlupa?)

Appeal for compassion

But Vice President Jejomar Binay said the government cannot ignore Filipinos abroad who need help. He stressed that the plea for a Filipina drug mule recently executed in China was an appeal for compassion.

“The Philippine government cannot turn its back on any Filipino in need of help. This is our obligation to our citizens,” Binay said in a statement on Saturday, July 6.

“We have made it clear from the start that we do not condone the action of drug mules and that we respect the laws of China. Drug smuggling is a serious offense and we do recognize that under Chinese laws, the penalty is harsh.  We do not question the verdict.  We were appealing for compassion,” Binay added.

Malacañang said the same. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte clarified that the government does not ask the foreign governments to pardon Filipinos found guilty of drug trafficking, but only appeals to spare them from the death penalty.

“We appeal only to spare their lives, so they can just serve the rest of their sentence or their natural life. We are not asking them to overturn the verdict, Valte said on the Palace’s radio program.  Rappler.com





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