3 Filipino drug mules set to die in China on Wednesday

MANILA—Three convicted Filipino drug traffickers will die by lethal injection in China on Wednesday and the Philippines finally gave up hopes for clemency, saying it respects the socialist republic’s decision.

Ramon Credo and Sally Villanueva will be executed in the coastal southeastern China city of Xiamen, while Elizabeth Batain will be put to death in Southern China’s Shenzhen City, said Foreign Affairs Spokesman J. Eduardo Malaya.

Their families are flying to China this weekend to see the three alive for the last time.

Credo, 42, Batain, 38, and Villanueva, 32, were separately arrested in China in 2008 and charged with heroin smuggling the following year.

They were originally set for execution last February 20 and 21 but President Benigno Aquino sent Vice President Jejomar Binay to Beijing last February 20 to appeal for their sentences to be commuted to life in jail. The Chinese courts granted a reprieve.

But the Chinese Embassy in Manila last week announced that a court review saw no reason to change the verdict.

Malaya said Wednesday that the Philippines “respects Chinese law and the (final) verdict of the Supreme People’s Court” on these cases.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Liu Jianchao has said that “China follows strict judicial procedures in applying death penalty.”

“A death sentence should be meted after two-tier trial and subject to review and approval by the SPC (Supreme People’s Court),” Liu said.

Villanueva, a mother of two, was arrested on December 24, 2008 at Gaoji International Airport while carrying in her suitcase 4,410 grams of heroin. Four days later at the same airport, Credo, a father of five, was apprehended with 4,113 grams of heroin found in his luggage.

Batain, meanwhile, was arrested on May 25, 2008 at the Shenzhen airport with 6,800 grams of heroin.

Carrying more than 50 grams of illegal drugs in punishable by death in China.

“The Chinese law prescribes that any person, (whether) he or she is a Chinese citizen or a foreigner, who commits crime shall be brought to justice in strict accordance with law. No one is privileged to transcend the law,” Liu said.

Malaya said the Philippine government gave the three doomed Filipinos “all possible legal and consular assisntance.”

“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 very day,” he said.

“Their families have been informed of the carrying out of the sentences, and arrangements are being made for them to depart for China during the weekend, in order to visit and see their loved ones,” Malaya added.

At the same time, he appealed anew to Filipinos to guard themselves against being duped into becoming drug mules by international drugs syndicates.

He said Filipinos travelling abroad should be “extremely cautions” when dealing with strangers in airports, especially those asking help for their supposed excess luggage.

“We wish to stress that vigilance is the first major step in combating the modus operandi of international drug traffickers,” Malaya said.

A total of 227 Filipinos are in various jails for drug offenses in China. Seventy-two of them were sentenced to death but with possibility of commutation, 38 received life sentences, 78 sentenced to 15 years in prison and 35 currently on trial.

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