MANILA, Philippines—The three Filipino drug mules temporarily snatched from death’s door in China now have less than a week to live, and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is arranging for their families to see them for the last time.
The execution by lethal injection of Ramon Credo, Sally Villanueva and Elizabeth Batain will be carried out on March 30, the DFA announced Wednesday afternoon through its spokesperson, Assistant Foreign Secretary J. Eduardo Malaya.
In Malacañang, President Benigno Aquino III’s deputy spokesperson said Filipinos would have to respect Chinese law.
“We were given information in the past that the stay of the executions has to be within the bounds of Chinese law, and we’ve repeatedly said that we will have to respect and abide by whatever the Chinese court’s decision would be on this matter,” Abigail Valte said.
Credo, 42, and Villanueva, 32, will be executed in Xiamen, and Batain, 38, in Shenzhen, Malaya said at a press briefing.
He said that the families had been informed of the impending executions, and that the DFA was “making arrangements” for them to fly to China this weekend.
He also said the DFA was preparing for “the next phase”—the repatriation of the convicts’ remains.
Credo, Villanueva and Batain were arrested separately in China in 2008 carrying packages containing several kilograms of heroin. They were convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death in 2009.
No more appeals
China had postponed the executions originally scheduled for Feb. 20-21 following a visit to Beijing by Vice President Jejomar Binay on Feb. 18.
Binay Wednesday said in a statement: “The President is very much concerned by this development.
“He has instructed me to continue to make representations with China on humanitarian grounds.
“I believe we were able to prove that a drug syndicate took advantage of our kababayan and that Philippine authorities have succeeded in identifying and arresting syndicate members. The President and I are requesting more prayers.
“As long as the death sentence has not been enforced, hope remains that [the lives of the three] will be saved.”
Binay also said the President had instructed the concerned agencies to assist the families.
Mr. Aquino also acknowledged last week that from the start, the Philippine government was told by Chinese authorities that the stay of execution was “temporary,” and that “we have to conform to their laws.”
But Malaya indicated that there would be no more last-minute diplomatic efforts to save the lives of the three convicts.
“As the public is well aware, the Philippine government provided the three Filipinos all possible legal and consular assistance. The government ensured that their legal rights were respected and observed and their welfare protected from the time of their arrests and throughout the judicial process, and even up to this day,” he said.
“The Philippine side respects Chinese law and the finality of the verdict of the Supreme People’s Court of China,” he added.
Commutation ruled out
Malaya said the Fujian People’s Court and the Guangdong High People’s Court informed the Philippine Consulates in Xiamen and Guangzhou on Tuesday of the execution date.
“It was in written form through a note verbale. It was also called in first before a formal note was transmitted to us,” he said.
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Liu Jianchao announced last week that a commutation of the death sentence on the three Filipinos had been “ruled out.”
“The purpose [of the execution] is not to take the lives of these people. It is to deter and curb [drug-related] crimes,” Liu had said.
Victims of crime gangs
Credo, Villanueva and Batain are among 227 Filipinos jailed in China for drug offenses.
In seeking clemency for them, the Philippine government had insisted that they were from poor families and were duped into becoming drug mules by crime syndicates.
Wednesday, Malaya said the Philippine government itself had “a strong anti-illegal drugs policy” and was in close cooperation with law enforcement agencies in China and in other countries on efforts against drug trafficking.
He aired an appeal to “all Filipinos, especially overseas Filipino workers, not to allow themselves to be victimized by international drug syndicates and to be extremely cautious when dealing with strangers in airports and other areas of transit.”
“We wish to stress that vigilance is the first major step in combating the modus operandi of international drug traffickers. We urge all our citizens to be on alert at all times in order not to be victimized by drug syndicates,” Malaya said. With a report from Norman Bordadora