They would help once the execution is already at hand. They should have acted immediately on the case when the hearings were still on going, not when the sentence has already been promulgated.” – mother of Sally Ordinario-Villanueva
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Mother of Sally Ordinario-Villanueva, Basilisa, 53, could not help but wonder how the family of the 35-year-old Filipino in death row in China is feeling tonight, just a few hours away from the execution of a loved one.
“It hurts. It was so difficult,” Basilisa told Bulatlat.com, recalling how she felt the night before her daughter Sally was executed in China.
Sally, Ramon Credo and Elizabeth Batain were executed in China on March 30, 2011 for carrying 4,410 grams, 4,113 grams and 6,800 grams of heroin, respectively. Just a few months later, another Filipino is facing execution for allegedly smuggling in 1.495 kilos of heroin in China on Sept. 13, 2008 at the Guilin International Airport.
On Nov. 28, the Supreme People’s Court in Beijing affirmed the conviction and sentence of the lower court and the 35-year-old Filipino was scheduled to die on Dec. 8, tomorrow.
The name of the Filipino was not given to the public reportedly due to the request of the family to protect their privacy. The family left for Canton on Dec. 6.
In the government’s last ditch efforts to save the life of the Filipino in China, President Benigno S. Aquino III sent an appeal letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao. “I’m still awaiting a reply to the letter that I sent to President Hu Jintao. But I will have to be realistic given the past that the time that we did appeal to them, we were not able to secure a commutation for those who were executed previously,” the President said on Tuesday.
When she learned of this news, Basilisa said she could not help but be very angry toward the government, which seems to be always late in its efforts to save Filipinos in death row. “They would help once the execution is already at hand. They should have acted immediately on the case when the hearings were still on going, not when the sentence has already been promulgated,” Basilisa said.
Recalling their experience with the execution of Sally, Basilisa said, the government did not lift a finger to help them save Sally’s life during those times that China was still hearing the case. In fact, she added that when they asked the Department of Foreign Affairs for updates on Sally’s case, they responded six months later.
Their despair to know how Sally was doing and, hopefully, to save her life pushed them to put their lives at risk and at the hands of the drug syndicates themselves. Basilisa said she befriended Sally’s recruiter Tita Cacayan and eventually asked her if she could also go to China and be one of their mules.
“She told me I will do fine because I am already old and that no one would bother to check me,” Basilisa told Bulatlat.com, “But later on, she told me that Jayson (her son) would do better because he is handsome and could be mistaken for a tourist.”
Jayson, for his part, accepted the offer so that he could help locate her sister. He became anxious, however. When he wanted to withdraw from the operation, he was kidnapped by the drug syndicate and was forced to swallow 34 plastic capsules each containing 12 grams of heroin.
Basilisa said Jayson managed to send them a text message asking for help. The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-National Capital Region managed to rescue Jayson just when he was about to fly out to Macau on Nov. 2, 2009.
Basilisa said the government has not done anything significant to put a stop to the internationally-coordinated crime. As proof, she added, no one has been jailed for recruiting Jayson, Sally and all the other Filipinos in death row in China.
Justice, Basilisa told Bulatlat.com, remains elusive for Sally. “There are millions of people in this world. Why did it have to be Sally?”
Eight months later, she said, nothing significant has happened to their case against Sally’s recruiter Tita Cacayan. The last that they have heard, she said, is that Cacayan is under the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation. “Someone told me she serves as a cook there.”
Sally’s daughter Princess, she said, has recently sent her a text message asking how their case is faring. Princess and her brother Lex Bert is under the custody of their father despite Sally’s last wish that they live with their maternal grandmother Basilisa.
“The government did not even do anything to ensure that Sally’s wish would be granted,” Basilisa said, adding that the children have recently expressed their concern that they might stop studying because they are having financial difficulties. Basilisa added that no one was ever true to their promise to help the children.
Basilisa said, “if only those words could be translated into money, then our family is now a millionaire.”
The family also did not receive the livelihood program that was promised. The most, Basilisa said, that they were able to receive is the free shipping of Sally’s remains in the country.
Fear among OFWs in death row in the Middle East
According to John Monterona, the impending execution of the Filipino in China has brought about fear among overseas Filipino workers in death row in the Middle East. “They worry whenever they hear news or reports about an execution or beheading of Filipinos abroad, be it in China or in Saudi Arabia,” he told Bulatlat.com in an email.
The mother of Rogelio Don Lanuza, Monterona said, called a few days ago asking for updates and requesting their organization to continue pressuring the Aquino government to help them raise the blood money. “There has been no formal acceptance in court that the aggrieved family is willing to accept the blood money. So, legally speaking, Don is not yet saved from execution,” Monterona said.
Joselito Zapanta, another OFW in death row in Malaz Jail in Riyadh, also recently asked to Migrante to help him plead for the assistance of the Philippine Embassy in talking to the family of the Sudanese who he accidentally killed in an effort to defend himself.
OFWs join campout
Meanwhile, overseas Filipino workers and their families have joined the camp out in Mendiola to denounce the continuing neglect of the present administration on the welfare of Filipinos working abroad.
“If the government continues to treat cases of OFWs in distress like this, we would no longer be surprised to find them all in death row,” Garry Martinez, chair of Migrante International, told Bulatlat.com during the camp out outside the Bustillos Church, a stone’s throw away from Mendiola.
Martinez said the government knew that there are 76 other Filipinos in China who are facing charges for drug trafficking even before Sally Ordinario, Ramon Credo and Elizabeth Batain were executed. But, he added, it did not help and assist them.
He added that the government has, instead, insisted that the Filipino who is scheduled to be executed tomorrow is a “veteran drug mule.” But if he is, Martinez said, why did it have to reach the point that the Filipino was caught while entering China and not while he was still in the country.
Monterona said it does not matter if the Filipino was a veteran drug mule or not. “It is simply an excuse on the part of the government to justify their lack of effort to provide assistance to the doomed OFWs and others who are in death row.
While the government is supposedly conducting a massive information and educational campaign on drug trafficking, Monterona said, it is only a short term measure. “In the long term, the government must generate local jobs with decent pay for Filipino workers. The Philippine economic structure and system must be progressive to be pro-workers and the government must emove all anti-worker policies such as the contractualization of labor, deregulation of labor, among others.
To put a stop to Filipinos being victimized as drug mules, Basilisa said the government should also investigate how they were able to pass the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and the Bureau of Immigration undetected.
“The government should be more responsive to the plight of Filipinos abroad if it is really serious in delivering genuine services to the people,” she said, “The government talks with China when it is about business. They should also do the same when it comes to the welfare of Filipinos.”