China suspends execution of 3 Filipinos
The Chinese government on Friday ordered a stay of execution for the 3 Filipinos convicted of drug trafficking.
This came after Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay went to Beijing and held talks with Chinese officials to seek leniency for the 3 convicts.
Ramon "Monchito" Credo, Sally Ordinario-Villanueva, and Elizabeth Batain have been convicted of drug trafficking in China.
In a joint statement, the Philippines "expressed its sincere appreciation to China for the decision of the SPC (Supreme People's Court) to postpone the execution within the scope of Chinese law."
The joint statement said the "Chinese side briefed the Vice President on the final verdict of the Supreme People's Court on the three (3) Filipinos sentenced to death for drug trafficking and the decision of the SPC to postpone the execution within the scope of Chinese law."
Binay met with the following Chinese officials and members of their staff: H.E. Mr. Dai Bingguo, State Councillor, H.E. Mr. Wang Shengjun, President of the Supreme People's Court and H.E. Mr. Zhang Zhijun, Executive Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The joint statement said, "The 2 sides exchanged views on a wide range of issues concerning bilateral relations, including judicial cooperation. The 2 sides expressed the determination to work together and make joint efforts in further strengthening the relationship of strategic cooperation."
The two countries also said they "are determined to work together in the fight against transnational crimes, including drug trafficking."
Of the condemned Filipinos, a 42-year-old man and a 32-year-old woman were scheduled to be executed on Monday in the southeastern city of Xiamen. A 38-year-old woman was due to be put to death in Shenzhen on Tuesday.
China had originally rejected Philippine requests for a visit by Binay on behalf of the 3 drug mules, but in a surprise move late Thursday, it softened its stance.
Binay, who is due to leave Beijing Saturday, had said in a statement he respected the decisions of the Chinese courts but would argue during his trip that the 3 deserved a lighter penalty.
"We do not condone drug trafficking. However, we believe that these Filipinos were merely victims of international drug syndicates," he said.
Aquino, meanwhile, said Friday he had sent a letter of appeal to his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao and called on all Filipinos "to unite ourselves in prayer beginning today at sundown."
"All our prayers will storm the heavens to touch the heart of God, the God who will make a way when there seems to be no way," he said in a statement.
All 3 Filipinos were convicted of smuggling heroin at separate trials in 2008, but Philippine officials say they were duped into their crimes and should face long prison sentences instead of execution.
Ties between the 2 countries were tested last year by the deaths in Manila of 8 tourists from Hong Kong, who were killed in a bungled rescue bid by Philippine police after they had been taken hostage aboard a bus.
Aquino sparked outrage in Hong Kong by later deciding to press only minor criminal charges against several police officials involved in the fiasco.
Aquino appeals China's death sentence for 3 Filipinos
Vice-President Jejomar C. Binay who left for Beijing Friday brought with him a letter from President Benigno S. C. Aquino III appealing to Chinese President Hu Jintao for leniency on the impending execution of 3 Filipinos over drug trafficking.
Mr. Aquino, in the letter, sought for clemency or a reprieve for Sally Villanueva, Ramon Credo and Elizabeth Batain based on humanitarian grounds, deputy spokesperson Abigail D. Valte said in a briefing at Malacanang.
The 3 were convicted for smuggling at least 4,000 grams of heroin in 2008. Under the laws of China, those found guilty of smuggling 50 grams or more of heroin or equivalent drugs are punished with death penalty.
"Our appeal is focused on humanitarian grounds. The letter will personally be hand carried by the Vice-President,” Ms. Valte said.
“We reiterate that by our efforts, we do not mean to say that we are condoning the act of the three, but yet we are appealing for a reprieve for humanitarian reason,” she added.
He will meet with President of the Supreme People’s Court and the Chinese Executive Vice Foreign Minister on Saturday.
“We remain steadfast to our hope that the trip of Vice-President Binay will be successful,” Ms. Valte said.
In a statement, Mr. Aquino called on the public to unite in prayer for the grant of a stay of the execution.
"We ask the Divine to provide daily strength to Sally, Ramon and Elizabeth and their families as we all await a miracle,” the president said.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ECMI) joined the mounting appeals for the Chinese government to commute the capital punishment.
"We hope and pray that our pleas be heeded by our Chinese brethren. We also urged our people to pray for the fate of these countrymen ours,” said Maasin Bishop Precioso D. Cantillas, ECMI chairman in a statement.
Statement of the DFA spokesperson on the Filipinos facing the death penalty in China,
February 18, 2011
Statement of Department of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson J. Eduardo Malaya: On the 3 Filipinos facing the death penalty in China for drug trafficking, and the continuing efforts for them to be granteleniency [Delivered at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Pasay City, February 18, 2011]
As instructed by President Benigno S. Aquino III, Vice President Jejomar Binay and DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban B. Conejos departed Manila on board a Philippine Airlines flight this early morning to seek clemency for our 3 Filipino nationals who were earlier meted with the sentence of death without reprieve in China.
The delegation arrived in Beijing at noon and was welcomed by senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China (PROC) and PROC Ambassador to the Philippines Liu Jianchao, and Philippine Ambassador to China Francisco L. Benedicto.
At 2:30 this afternoon, Vice President Binay and Undersecretary Conejos will meet with President Wang Shen Jun of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) of China, and other high-ranking Chinese officials.
The DFA extends its appreciation to the People’s Republic of China for warmly receiving the Vice President and his delegation and for the opportunity to engage senior Chinese officials on behalf of the 3 Filipinos and their families.
We note that in receiving the Vice President, the Chinese Government took into serious consideration the sentiments of President Aquino and the Filipino people.
It is rare for countries to send a high-level official to appeal for their nationals in these circumstances. President Aquino, with his deep sense of compassion, decided to instruct the Vice President to proceed to China for the sake of the families of our 3 Filipino nationals.
The visit reaffirms the close friendship between the Philippines and China and gives both sides the opportunity to further collaborate on ways and means to address the drug trafficking menace.
We also note that the sentences imposed on the 3 Filipinos are final in accordance with Chinese law, and we respect the decisions of the Chinese courts.
The families of Mr. Ramon and Ms. Sally will leave for Xiamen this Saturday morning so as to have the opportunity to see and to visit their loved ones on Sunday.
On Sunday morning, the family of Ms. Elizabeth will depart Manila for Guangzhou for a similar visit.
We wish to emphasize that the DFA extended full legal and consular assistance to all three Filipino nationals.
The Philippine Government also made low-key but high-level representations with the Chinese authorities to seek mitigated sentences for our 3 Filipinos.
The Philippine Consulates General in Xiamen and in Guangzhou made constant jail visitations and extended full consular assistance to the 3 Filipinos and to their families for scheduled visits.
Consulate officials in Xiamen visited Ms. Sally 8 times during the period of January 2009 to January 2011.
They also visited Mr. Ramon 8 times during the period of January 2009 to January 2011.
Meanwhile, Consulate officials in Guangzhou visited Ms. Elizabeth 5 times between August 2008 and October 2010.
The Embassy and Consulates closely monitored their cases (both the trial and the appeal). Consulate officials attended their court hearings and had close coordination with the counsels of the 3 Filipinos.
All three Filipinos were represented by competent legal counsel and aided by translators during the trial of their cases.
The Philippine Government has a strong anti-illegal drug policy, and is closely cooperating with law enforcement agencies in other countries on efforts against anti-drugs trafficking.
Let me close by appealing to all Filipinos, particularly those who travel abroad, not to be victimized by international drug syndicates.
At the airport, do not agree to carry any luggage for strangers. We must all take full responsibility for our actions by always being on guard against inducements.