Deterrent for 'drug mules'?

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Friday, April 1, 2011

TODAY the country mourns as China executed by lethal injection Sally Ordinario-Villanueva, Ramón Credo and Elizabeth Batain. The three are of course not heroes but zeroes who tried to smuggle heroin.

They are the first Filipinos to be executed for drug crimes in China. Unfortunately, they won’t be the last either. In China’s death row are 74 more Filipinos facing the capital punishment for drug-trafficking cases.

Someone closer to home is Flory May Talaban, the Bacoleña who is serving life in a Thai prison. Thai authorities confiscated 2.8 kilos of heroin in her apartment in Bangkok.


Somehow, even the death penalty failed to deter quite a number of Filipinos willing to serve drug syndicates as drug couriers. I would blame the willingness of some Filipinos to earn quick money and the tendency of many of our kasimanwas to flout or bend the rules.

As the world’s second largest economy, I can understand why drug syndicates would want to penetrate China. The market is huge and it’s a rich country.

Look at the potential profits for drug syndicates if their mules get through China’s immigration with several kilos of heroin. A newbie heroin user will inject between five to ten milligrams of pure heroin. A gram equates to 1,200 doses. A cost and return analysis would show that a single dose can fetch $10 to $20. You don’t need to know calculus to figure out the humongous dollars and cents when milligrams convert to a kilo of heroin.

So will the execution of three Filipino drug mules deter other compatriots from following their footsteps? Frankly, I doubt it, if the Philippines experience in enforcing the capital punishment is used as a measure.

After its reimposition in 1993, over 1,200 individuals have been sentenced to death and seven convicts have been executed through lethal injection. From 1994 to 1995, the number of convicts on death row jumped from 12 to 104. The following year, the number increased to 182. By the end of 1999, National Bilibid Prisons and at the Correctional Institute for Women held 956 death convicts.

Many Filipinos are easily enticed with get-rich schemes, even at the risk to their lives. Many sacrifice life and limb for much less, judging how we celebrate New Year exploding dangerous firecrackers, or as usiseros during coup d'états, hostage taking or bank robbery. Many of us think little of our safety, so long as we can get our cheap thrills.

Let us also not forget world history how drug trafficking is a sensitive cultural and historical issue for Chinese governments. Foreign colonial powers humiliated China twice in the Opium Wars to force it to trade its riches for opium to create a subpopulation of addicts. Heroin is derived from opium, so I can understand China’s anger over drugs much more than ours in the Philippines.

How can we stop Filipinos from becoming drug mules? Many experts and bloggers have come up with interesting solutions. Let me add the following proposals.

We must stop treating drug mules as heroes, but as convicted criminals. Another is to make sure our airport and immigration authorities detect these mules in our ports of entries. I doubt China and Thailand’s body scanners use rocket science to detect drug couriers.

More often, it’s also using low-tech but effective horse sense. They can watch over travelers who act nervously, shifty-eyed or sweat profusely—the normal reaction from people who carry illegal drugs in their body, bags or clothing. Or aboard a plane, passengers who abstain from eating food because they cannot ingest food, lest they excrete the drug too early.

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Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on April 01, 2011.


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