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Another Filipino Faces Execution By Hanging, For Drugs In Malaysia

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Philippines–Another Filipino is facing the death penalty in Malaysia on charges of smuggling marijuana, and two more have been sentenced to life imprisonment on drug charges in Thailand.

Aida Dizon Garcia, a 51-year-old college lecturer from Quezon City, is being assisted by the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, according to Assistant Foreign Secretary J. Eduardo Malaya, spokesperson of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Garcia was reportedly arrested upon exiting a bus from Thailand last November for carrying 11.9 kilos of marijuana worth $5,900 (17,800 ringgit) in her luggage.

A report from The Associated Press quoted Malaysian prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin as saying that Garcia was traveling as a tourist and that police trailed her bus on a tip.

Garcia pleaded innocent in a court in Malaysia's central Negri Sembilan state on Thursday, Wan Shaharuddin said.

The court allowed Garcia until April 20 to get a lawyer, the AP reported. A conviction carries the mandatory penalty of execution by hanging.

The Star/ANN reported that the charge was read to Garcia by a Filipino court interpreter.

Through the interpreter, Garcia asked for a court-appointed lawyer, claiming she could not afford one.

Help from embassy

Only last Wednesday, three Filipino drug mules convicted of drug trafficking in China–Elizabeth Batain, Ramon Credo and Sally Villanueva–were executed by lethal injection despite pleas from the Philippine government for a commutation of their death sentence.

"The Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur is aware of the case and currently extending assistance to Ms Aida Dizon Garcia," Malaya said Friday.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario had paid a visit to Malaysian Foreign Minister Dato Sri Anifah Aman at his office in Putrajaya, Malaysia. But it was not clear if Garcia's case was brought up.

"The two foreign ministers discussed matters of mutual interest, notably the preparations for the 7th Philippine-Malaysia Joint Commission Meeting to be held mid-April in Manila," the DFA said.

60 in Thai jails

The life terms meted out to two Filipino women convicted of drug charges in Thailand were reported by Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Javier Colmenares on Thursday.

He identified the women as Icoy Mamontong, who was sentenced only on Wednesday, and Flory May Talaban.

The party-list lawmaker went on a three-day visit to Thailand to look into the plight of Filipinos in various prisons in that country.

There are 60 Filipinos in prisons in Thailand, 23 of whom are detained for being drug couriers, he said.

Colmenares visited the Filipinos in the Bangkok Correctional Institution for Female Offenders together with Talaban's parents.

"Even if it is unfortunate that they were given such a harsh sentence, it is a relief that at least it was not a death sentence considering that we are not even sure that they are actually guilty of drug trafficking," Colmenares said in a statement.

He said Talaban spoke of "how she innocently brought in an encyclopedia upon the request of an African, Francis Yerti, who befriended her and who later turned out to be a member of an international drug syndicate."

Colmenares also mentioned Estrellita Basilio, 55, who was sentenced to 25 years in a Thai prison "for bringing in what she thought were dyeing materials from her employer but later turned out to be cocaine."

He said Basilio had retired from her job in the Philippines, "lured, through the Internet, with a promise of office work in a casino with a $1,200 monthly salary."

Colmenares said Basilio had "unknowingly pleaded guilty" to the charge of drug trafficking.

He said her case once more raised the need to increase the budget for legal assistance to Filipinos abroad, which had been reduced by the Aquino administration.

P500M needed

Colmenares said Bayan Muna would fight for a bigger legal assistance budget to help Filipinos languishing in jails abroad, particularly those who were wrongly accused.

"It is unthinkable for a Filipino to suffer life imprisonment or even the death penalty without the necessary legal support, especially since most of them are unwitting victims of drug syndicates," he said, adding that a budget of at least P500 million would "definitely be proposed."

Colmenares raised the need to assign lawyers from the Public Attorney's Office to Philippine embassies in countries with a large number of Filipino workers.

There must be counsel to advise the accused, especially when the court proceedings are in a foreign language, he said.

"We must be proactive here," he said. "We cannot wait for another death sentence to be carried out, such as those in China, before we act."

Colmenares has authored House Resolution No. 858 calling for a congressional investigation of Filipinos languishing in prisons abroad, and whether they were given the necessary legal assistance before they were convicted.

Reciprocal punishment

Still on proposed legislation, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and his brother, Abante Mindanao Rep. Maximo Rodriguez, are preparing to file a bill that will impose "reciprocal" capital punishment on foreigners convicted of high crimes in the Philippines.

"This situation on the death penalty is inequitable and unfair," Rufus Rodriguez said in a phone interview. "There are many Chinese nationals convicted of drug trafficking in the country but we cannot execute them, like what was done to the three Filipinos recently. If we do not correct this soon, we are in danger of being a haven for drug factories and transshipment points for foreigners because the penalty here is not as severe as in their home countries."

The death penalty was outlawed in the Philippines some five years ago.

The Rodriguezes' bill seeks to amend Section 31 of Republic Act No. 9165 (or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002) with this revision: "If the violator of any of the provisions of this act is an alien, the penalty to be imposed shall be the penalty prescribed by their national law for the act committed or the penalty prescribed by this act, whichever is higher ...

"The penalty of death, if applicable, shall be imposed despite the prohibition of the imposition of the death penalty in the Philippines."

The bill also seeks to require an exemption to RA 9346 (or An Act Prohibiting the Death Penalty in the Philippines).

In the explanatory note, the Rodriguezes said: "While there is no reason to question the laws of foreign countries, we must, however, ensure that our countrymen do not suffer the short end of the stick. As such, there is a need to amend our laws to ensure that foreign nationals caught violating our laws on drugs be also convicted of the harshest penalties that their national law imposes." Reports from DJ Yap, Cynthia D. Balana and Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.

NewsHawk: Jim Behr: 420 MAGAZINE
Author: DJ Yap, Cynthia D. Balana and Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Copyright: 2011 Philippine Daily Inquirer
Contact: INQUIRER.net
Website: Another Filipino faces execution by hanging, for drugs in Malaysia
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