Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Hard Arm of the Law

It was never going to be a pretty incident.

Today, three Filipinos were executed in China for drug smuggling. According to Chinese law, smuggling and trafficking more than 50g of illegal drugs is punishable by death by lethal injection.

The three Filipinos were supposed to have been handed the death penalty a month ago, had not Vice President Binay personally brought a letter from the President to the Chinese authorities requesting a stay of execution. The stay was granted, but earlier today, the fate of the three were released to the public: they have been executed as per Chinese law.

Too harsh?
Amnesty International has continually berated the People's Republic of China over the harsh laws it has, as well as the numerous cases of death penalties meted out on nationals and non-nationals alike. The three Filipinos executed today follow the fate of several other foreigners convicted of drug-related crimes within China. Many online comments on the news posts that I have seen show people expressing sympathy towards the families of the drug mules (people who are hired to smuggle drugs into another country for a fee) and increasing resentment towards the drug syndicates abound. Many are arguing that though Chinese laws are harsh, perhaps it would have been a wiser course of action for both the Philippine and the Chinese governments to have pursued the "head of the snake" instead, as compared to chopping off the "appendages" - the drug mules, in this case.

One thing I do see a problem was the claim that drug syndicates have "duped" these people into smuggling drugs into another country. That may be so, and I honestly believe that these three were probably driven to the point of desperation as to resort to taking huge risks such as the one they all did, in order to provide for their families. It is painful for us Filipinos to admit it, but the three individuals executed were adults capable of weighing decisions; it was a matter of unfortunate circumstance that they were caught, arrested, tried, and found guilty. It was even more unfortunate that all of those happened in a nation-state that still implemented capital punishment. However, I think we also need to understand the point of view of the Chinese government. It was enforcing its laws. Nothing more, nothing less. It was painful to see our countrymen die by the hand of another nation's justice system, and it was also painful to know that these same persons were duped and/or tricked. However, from China's point of view, its laws were broken, and in the spirit of maintaining its sovereignty, it enforced those selfsame laws; the death of three 'criminals' would simply be another case of lawbreakers meeting their fate. Sad? Yes. Fair? Probably not. In accordance to Chinese law? Yes, and that's what matters to the Chinese government.

I hope that this incident serves as a lesson to many Filipinos who are driven to take any and all measures in order to provide for their families. Honest living may not provide the same financial rewards as illegal activities do, but the risk - such as being prosecuted and found guilty in a foreign court - is far too much for our loved ones to handle when worse comes to worse. It is not fair to them, especially if they find out of our fate through television as it had already happened. It is also not right for us to go to another country and break the laws of that country. In the same way that we will never think of smashing our host's windows as they accommodate us in their home, we shouldn't have to take unnecessary risks that could well end up unhealthily.

My favorite author, Michael Crichton, said it best:
"Justice is never about fairness.. It is merely a resolution for conflict."



  1. I completely agree with everything you said, you like read my sentiments or something, but have you watched the news? That one wherein a reporter interviewed Credo's father-in-law? I mean, that guy -- Credo I think his name was -- was one of the three who were just killed & his father-in-law was like practically sour-graping on national TV! Saying he deserves what he got & all ... I mean, that reporter could have done good if she interviewed Credo's family & spared us from Credo's insensitive in-laws ... Personal thing, I guess that was.

  2. The matter on whether he deserved the death penalty or not is matter for another debate, but one thing is for sure: he committed a serious crime and that warranted punishment. It just so happened that it was in a country that practiced capital punishment.

    As for Credo's father-in-law, I did not have the unpleasant experience of watching a relative sour-grape. I suppose it wasn't called for, but people will say what they want to say, y'know.