31 March 2011

Drug Mule

Such is the plight of the overseas worker that Sally Ordinario-Villanueva, Ramon Credo and Elizabeth Batain – may their souls rest in peace – and many others like them from this country who still await what fate has in store for them in lands far away are referred to in the media in that most unfortunate of terms: drug mule. I cannot imagine a worse affront, particularly as the appellation – as appears from all indications – is totally undeserved.

Contemporary language has it that a mule is a person who smuggles contraband across national borders; and in fairness, the term is likewise used to connote those who are no more than unwitting couriers. However, I have always associated the verb “to smuggle” with intent; and if there is none, then technically the person carrying the contraband is not smuggling at all.

Therefore, a courier who is duped into carrying a parcel with contraband inside it across borders into another country is completely undeserving of the term drug mule. Victim, yes; anything else becomes inappropriate.



Truth be told, all three Filipinos executed yesterday for surreptitiously carrying drugs into China were not only totally undeserving of the label drug mule but, likewise, also probably totally undeserving of incarceration, let alone death by lethal injection. I say “probably” because whether or not there was intent on their part in the transit of drugs into China, we will also probably never really discover. And not that, if we do, it will make any difference to a point rendered moot by their execution…

We all assume there was no intent; and not just because we are all fellow Filipinos but because the stories of all three are only all too familiar. Victims of circumstance – no more than that – these three; just Filipinos – among thousands forced by this thing called Economics into this thing we call the Diaspora – wishing to provide for those left behind in the homeland. Who does not have a relative or a neighbor with the exact same story to tell?

Just like your relative or your neighbor, they just probably took chances with their destinies knowing that the chances of providing for their families whilst in the homeland were significantly less promising. No… None of us can be coerced into believing that they would willingly carry drugs into China.

Yet, the evidence does not lie; or does it not? Judicial systems the world over – or, at least, in the civilized world – are built so that judgments are passed on the bases of merit; i.e. the evidence or evidences that are at a court’s disposal.

All three Filipinos executed yesterday were found to have brought in drugs into China. In certain societies, the extenuating circumstances relevant to the evidence would have been given so much more consideration. But this is China; although on the surface, its flirtation with capitalism has given it the gloss of a Western democracy, the truth of the matter is that it in many ways continues to be a police state.

We all said our silent prayers even as the vigils and the saying of the rosary continued in communities where the families of those executed lived; but exactly how many remembered how swiftly and ruthlessly China dealt with its own citizens in the now-infamous massacre at Tiananmen? China, it has to be said, ranks nowhere near the Philippines in the clemency department.

To begin with, the Chinese neither knew nor cared who all the three executed Filipinos were. They were foreigners wanting to get entry into their country; and the saying my-house-my-rules comes very much to mind. In all honesty, one cannot deny the validity of such an outlook. In the same manner, we would want all visitors to this country to respect our law, culture and traditions.

In other words, the onus was always on the three Filipinos to prove that they had nothing to do with the drugs they were ostensibly smuggling. This was always going to be difficult to do considering that they were caught with the drugs in their possession and they were nobodies who did not have the resources to prove their innocence in lengthy courtroom battles in a foreign land at that.

Filipinos being Filipinos – and there are rotten eggs in every culture, every society – there are indeed those among us who do the nation no service by being unwanted visitors when they travel abroad. The great majority of those who leave our shores, however, are no different from the three who were put to the sword yesterday: nobodies who steel their nerves when they leave for distant shores so that loved ones may not go hungry and who are at the mercy of the cruel twists of fate once they reach these distant shores.

Regrettably, the biggest loser in this whole sorry mess is the truth. As long as the truth continues to remain hidden, there will be more Sally Villanuevas, Ramon Credos and Elizabeth Batains whose lives will be taken away from them simply because there will always be those who do not know what the word scruples means and who think that simple people just trying to improve their lives are totally expendable.

This last statement, by the way, does not refer to those in the Chinese justice system. Instead, it refers to those who should have been the ones to receive the lethal injections but who continue to count their cash at the expense of other people’s lives. It is so unfair…

My heart bled watching the relatives of the three executed Filipinos bawling their hearts out on television yesterday when the news that they hoped would never come finally did. I do not know any of the three apart from what I have heard or read from the news. In dying, they told the sad story of the Filipino loud and clear.

I have nothing but respect for all three; and I, for one, will not be calling them drug mules.





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