The Veloso case, from another perspective

    Barely two months ago, Mary Jane Veloso was on the front pages of newspapers and on prime-time television news almost every day, as she was one of nine persons due to be executed in Indonesia for drug-related convictions.

     Posted by Senator Manny Villar on Jun 10th, 2015 // 0 Comments

    Barely two months ago, Mary Jane Veloso was on the front pages of newspapers and on prime-time television news almost every day, as she was one of nine persons due to be executed in Indonesia for drug-related convictions.

    The government, along with private organizations, succeeded in getting a stay of her execution. Efforts continue to have her sentence commuted, or even to be pardoned so she could return home.

    The stories about the 30-year-old mother of two focused on her apprehension at Yogyakarta airport in April, 2010, carrying a bag that contained 2.6 kilos of heroin. She was sentenced to death by firing squad in October of the same year for drug trafficking.

    After the postponement of the execution, the Philippine government conducted its own investigation, which now focuses on Veloso being a victim of illegal recruitment and human trafficking.

    I look at the Veloso case from another perspective: the drug problem. Indonesia has made drug trafficking a capital crime with death as punishment for offenders.

    This reflects the seriousness of the illegal drug problem in Indonesia. In an online report last March, Al Jazeera quoted President Joko Widodo as saying 4.5 million people were in drug rehabilitation programs in Indonesia. At one point in time Thailand also adopted a strict stance against drug trafficking.

    This is not to say that we condone human rights violations. The problem is that we may not see it, but drug traffickers may be looking at the Philippines as a favorable hub for their operations.

    In my view, this will exacerbate our drug problem, which is already serious. For instance, news reports cited the United Nations World Drug Report for 2012, which identified the Philippines as having the highest abuse rate for methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu in East Asia.

    Statistics from the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) confirm the UN finding. As of 2013, the agency said 83.50 percent of drug users reported shabu as their drugs/substances of abuse, followed by Cannabis (marijuana, brownies, seeds, hashish) with 28.02 percent and inhalants, specifically contact cement adhesive (rugby) with 3.18 percent. Other drugs/substances of abuse include solvent, cocaine, benzodiazepines, MDMA (ecstasy), nalbuphine hydrochloride (nubain), cough/cold preparations and ketamine.

    In another report, the Philippine Center on Transnational Crime (PCTC) admits that stopping illicit drug trafficking in the country remains difficult and that despite measures to combat illicit drug syndicates, statistics show that “this is still an alarming predicament in the country.”

    According to PCTC, drug syndicates have established small-scale and kitchen-type clandestine laboratories since 2010 to lower the risk of detection. Syndicates also shifted from renting warehouses to be used as shabu laboratories, to houses in exclusive subdivisions, condominiums, and apartments to further conceal their activities.

    Geography also favored drug trafficking. PCTC said that due to its geological make-up, the Philippines is being continuously used as a transshipment hub of illegal drug traffickers, both local and foreign. The vast shorelines of central and southern Philippines are suspected to be the landing and/or entry points of illegal drugs from China, PCTC said.

    Even the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), according to PCTC, continues to be the preferred trafficking avenue for illegal drugs in small quantities, from less than one kilo to multi-kilo transshipments by drug traders or drug mules.

    A few months ago, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) conducted raids on the Bilibid National Penitentiary, and found convicted drug lords who are already in prison but are living pampered lives.

    In view of these developments, I see the Veloso case as a call for a review of our drug problem, including the implications of moves by neighboring countries to solve their own drug problem.

    Recent news reports also indicated that drug traffickers continue to adopt innovations in their criminal trade. They use children to deliver illegal drugs to buyers because existing law virtually makes minors immune from arrest and prosecution.

    Thus, in addition to strengthening the enforcement of anti-illegal drug laws by providing adequate funds and personnel to appropriate agencies, I believe one way of addressing the problem is a review of our judicial system.

    We must realize that the illegal drug problem affects not only the people who are driven into addiction or their families. It also aggravates the peace and order conditions. So many crimes, including brutal ones, have been committed by people under the influence of drugs.

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