Were they really unwitting victims or willing drug couriers?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-04-12
The three recently executed Filipino drug mules in China - Sally Ordinario-Villanueva, Ramon Credo and Elizabeth Batain - were not OFWs (overseas Filipino workers). None of them were registered with the POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration), the OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) and the DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment).

The media, especially ABS-CBN with its passion for showing melodrama on its newscasts, successfully portrayed them as “unwitting victims” - even to the point of almost characterizing them as among the poorest of the poor. The lack of education of the poorest of the poor renders them most vulnerable for exploitation. As it turned out, it was the lack of editorial judgment and addiction to sensationalism and melodrama that gave a distorted public perception of the issue. Public pity, instead of disdain for a serious criminal act, was promoted.

A sober and objective appreciation of the cases of the three recently executed Filipino drug mules in China would reveal that they may not be the “unwitting victims” that they’ve been portrayed to be. This was the gist of a recent discussion your Chair Wrecker had with Senator Tito Sotto last April 5 at the birthday bash of our common friend, Gary Vazquez of Vazbuilt fame. Until he ran for the Senate last year, Sen. Tito was the chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board and on the subject of drugs he knows whereof he speaks.

Sen. Tito echoed what he stated in a February 23rd Senate privilege speech: “So, what we are saying here and what we are doing when we do media reports, it is actually insulting the real OFWs. There are millions of OFWs all over the world who are not corrupted. 

He stated in Filipino: “Not all OFWs accept the incentives offered by drug syndicates. These three whom our government is helping are not OFWs at all.” He added: “They went there as drug couriers. They were there as drug traffickers. They do not have any records with the POEA, OWWA, DOLE; that they were under contract to go to China for work.”

Sen. Tito also decried the wrong impression that media gave the state of airport security and control in our country. He claimed that as of 2008, the security in our exit and entry points have already been upgraded to stop drug trafficking. He further stated in his Senate privilege speech that many of these drugs are no longer shipped out from Manila.

He said that per 2010 and 2011 records, drug trafficking cases had dropped significantly and most of these cases did not involve shipments from Manila to China. The shipments to China, per Sen. Tito, came mostly from Malaysia, Thailand, Macau and Hong Kong. That is logical because there is no point bringing heroin or cocaine to the Philippines which is not a market for these drugs. Our country will just be an added risk to the drug syndicates. They take lesser risks when their drugs go through fewer security checkpoints.

Sen. Tito also debunked the impression which the media had created that the government was remiss in alerting Filipinos about the preying drug syndicates. He said that since 2008, a massive campaign was launched by government agencies and this had resulted in a dramatic reduction of cases. Before 2008, there were 205 drug cases of Filipinos in China. In 2010, there were only six cases and in 2011, only two thus far had been chalked.

The broadcast media addiction to sensationalism and melodrama resulted in this public failure to appreciate the real issues. Instead of condemnation of a criminal act that ruins many lives, the drug couriers were made to look like “unwitting victims” of the drug syndicates.

You will wonder if these television editors even look at their own footages. Clearly, Sally Ordinario-Villanueva, Ramon Credo and Elizabeth Batain do not count as “kapuspalad (poorest of the poor)” and this is easily proved by their houses which were made of sturdy construction materials. Sally Ordinario-Villanueva’s letter to her family was written in good English, the sign of a good education which would debunk any notion that she could be easily manipulated.

Seeing how some of the biggest crooks and sinners in our society can proclaim with a straight face that “My conscience is clear” - we should also not easily believe the claims of the relatives of the executed drug mules that they were unwitting victims. If you were a drug syndicate, would you entrust four kilos of expensive cocaine - around P20 million as the estimated street value of a kilo of cocaine is P5 million - to someone who does not know the value of the drugs being trafficked? Would you not brief them thoroughly of the value of the drugs that they’re carrying, the dangers which they’ll be facing and how they should minimize their risks? A female drug mule who surfaced recently revealed that they were briefed and they knew what they were doing.

In our country, every election loser claims to have been cheated. Now we have drug mules - reported to be making around P500,000 per successful delivery - who are claiming ignorance, innocence and that they’re victims of their social conditions.

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