By Jose Rodel Clapano
Vice President Jejomar Binay called off yesterday a planned visit to China to save a convicted Filipina drug smuggler from execution, saying Beijing had declined to receive him.
Binay said he was to have left during the day, carrying a letter from President Aquino to Chinese President Xi Jinping, asking that the woman be spared from execution, which is expected not later than tomorrow.
“This Saturday, I was informed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China has sent word that now would not be a convenient time for me to visit China,” Binay said in a statement.
“I wanted to go to China to personally appeal for compassion. I am sad, however, that China has chosen to take this position regarding my visit,” added Binay, who is presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers (OFW) concerns.
Binay said he was “left with no option but to cancel my trip to China.”
“I ask for prayers for our compatriot and her family,” Binay said. The convicted Filipina and her male cousin were arrested for smuggling more than 12 kilos of high-grade heroin into China in 2011.
Her cousin had his execution set back by two years. Chinese embassy spokesmen in Manila could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Palace still hopeful
Malacañang was saddened by China’s decision to turn down Binay’s visit, but remained optimistic on the response to a letter of President Aquino which had been sent earlier seeking for a stay in the execution of the Filipina drug mule.
“It’s unfortunate that the response to the visit was as such. But we have already sent the advance letter of the President,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in an interview over government-run radio dzRB.
“At this point, we are waiting for a favorable response given that the letter had been conveyed through the appropriate channels,” Valte said.
Aquino had previously sent Binay to China in February 2011 to seek a reprieve for three Filipinos also convicted of drug trafficking, but the three were executed the following month.
The executions triggered widespread condemnation in the Philippines, which abolished the death penalty in 2006. The latest case comes amid already rocky bilateral relations between the two countries soured by overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea.
About a tenth of the Philippines’ 100 million population work abroad, many of them under harsh conditions where drug traffickers sometimes exploit them into becoming drug mules.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, 213 Filipinos have been jailed in drug-related cases in China.