>Kopi Talk Reprieve

>There are 227 Filipinos detained on criminal charges including drug trafficking in China, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs. A group representing migrant workers counts 79 Filipinos facing death for various offenses in China and another 41 in the Middle East. The Philippine government cannot send Vice President Jejomar Binay to save all of them from execution or at least win a reprieve. For most of the convicts, Philippine diplomats will just have to work overtime to win leniency.

The death sentence on the three convicted drug mules in China gained national attention because President Aquino had linked the Philippines’ boycott of the Nobel Peace Prize awarding ceremonies in Oslo to his government’s efforts to save Filipinos from capital punishment in China. Beijing had immediately clarified that the two issues were unrelated, but the Philippine President had already spoken, and so the two countries now face a sticky situation in bilateral ties.

With a tenth of the country’s population working around the world and in almost every commercial vessel plying international waters, it won’t be the last time that the Philippine government will see its foreign policy being affected, often adversely, by the need to protect the welfare of its people abroad. Some governments have emphasized that foreign guests must respect a host country’s laws, which must be applied equally to foreigners and citizens alike.

This must be drummed into the consciousness of every Filipino who wants to work or conduct business overseas. The government is duty-bound to work for the welfare of Filipinos who defy travel bans or end up in a foreign prison for breaking the law. But those who are eventually freed must also face varying degrees of penalties in the Philippines, with the worst a permanent ban on working or traveling overseas. The stiffest penalties must also be imposed on their recruiters.

All these problems illustrate the dark side of the Philippine diaspora. While Filipinos working overseas have been hailed as modern day heroes for the billions that they remit annually, accounting for rosy economic figures, the fact is that they left their own land and their loved ones because of the state’s inability to provide decent employment to its people. The same problem is driving Filipinos, many of them women, to work as international drug mules. Until this problem is addressed, the government will be constantly scrambling to save the necks of Filipinos who break laws overseas to make an extra buck.

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