Press Release
February 16, 2011

Legarda: Gov't Must Exhaust All Means to Help 3 Pinoys
on Death Row in China

Senator Loren Legarda today stressed that the government must exhaust all legal means to aid Filipinos facing death sentences in foreign nations, particularly the three Filipinos in China convicted for drug trafficking and sentenced to death by the Supreme People's Court (SPC) in Beijing.

"The Philippine government is duty-bound to extend full protection and exhaust all legal means to aid our countrymen. The Philippine Migrant Workers' Act demands no less than that. The Department of Foreign Affairs(DFA) should pursue efforts to have the death sentences commuted to life imprisonment or even lower penalties," Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said.

The Senator cited data from the DFA showing that the majority of the 302 Filipinos facing drug-related cases in Asia are in China (205 cases), followed by Hong Kong (26) and Malaysia (17). It said 221 of these cases involve women. Among the drug-related cases in China, five have been meted the death penalty without reprieve, and 70 with death penalty with two-year reprieve. There are 35 cases given life imprisonment sentences, 68 with fixed-term imprisonment, and 27 pending cases.

"The circumstances surrounding the case of our sentenced kababayans in Beijing clearly point to the need for a stronger law against trafficking in persons. It is for this reason that we have fast-tracked the formulation of the proposed amendments to the Anti-Trafficking Act of 2003," Legarda said.

The primary objective of these amendments, which are contained under Senate Committee Report No. 13, is to provide our law enforcers and prosecutors the needed legal tool to ensure that perpetrators of trafficking are given their day in court to answer for their sins. Trafficking of persons for the purpose of drug trafficking is covered by the proposed amendments.

Apart from strengthening enforcement and prosecution efforts, the measure will also intensify preventive measures and will put upon the shoulders of pertinent agencies of our government the primary task of widening the reach of their information programs and community-based assistance programs.

"I have already sponsored this measure in Plenary last January 17. We cannot wait for further incidents to happen before we act on this measure. Thus, I call on my colleagues to join me in ensuring the swift passage of the measure," Legarda stressed.

Meanwhile, the Senator also said that she has already scheduled a series of hearings that will tackle outstanding treaties with other governments, including the Philippine-China Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters.

"I will seek ways by which these treaties can be enforced in ways that it will provide protection for our nationals overseas. At the end of the day, we should all work towards providing our citizens economic reasons to stay in our country. It is here where they should be sharing their talents. We need to reverse the situation wherein migration has become the only choice for many of our citizens," Legarda concluded.

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