Monday, April 4, 2011


At Large
Complicit victims
By Rina Jimenez-David
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:41:00 04/02/2011

SO FRAUGHT with sensationalism, sentimentality and raw emotion has been the coverage of the three drug mules’ execution in China that it’s been actually painful to behold.
And if it’s been hard for an ordinary media consumer to take, you can imagine how much more harrowing has been the experience for those close to the story. We’re talking particularly here of the families of the executed Filipinos who, in the weeks since the fate of their kin exploded in the headlines, have been hounded by cameras and reporters, their most private thoughts and pained emotions probed and brought to light. I mean, how many times can one answer how one “feels” after the death of a daughter, sister, wife, brother or husband? How many times does the public have the “right” to know how the survivors are faring?
True, this is a story of public interest, human interest in its keenest and rawest form. There has been no lack of drama, with the lives of three citizens at stake, and the compassion of both the Philippine and Chinese governments tested.
But in our concern first, to try to prevent the execution of the three; and then to make sure they have not died “meaningless” deaths, the public reaction – drawn largely from the fervid populist media coverage – seems to have written a script entirely divorced from reality.
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I AM glad a labor recruiter has gone public with his plea to the media that the three not be called OFWs. They did not go to China to find a job, and neither did they desire to stay there for any length of time. They were convinced to travel to China by agents—neither should these folks be called recruiters – of drug syndicates seeking an easy way to smuggle illegal substances into China. The point was to turn over the drugs to the syndicate leaders in exchange for a tempting amount. Easy come, easy go.
Footage of the hometowns of the three drug mules makes it obvious that none of them belonged to the “poorest of the poor.” They owned their own homes which looked to be built of sturdy materials. The coverage makes much of how the three were victims of poverty, since only poverty could have driven them to embark on such a dangerous mission. But could it be their perception of poverty was skewed? Obviously the prospect of earning a large amount as payment for a fairly simple assignment was part of the lure. But they were no innocents, even if their families now say they had no idea what they were risking.
Of course we should go after the Filipino agents who convinced them to take part in drug smuggling. And beyond that, to hunt down the syndicate leaders who have found (and still find) Filipinos easy prey for their operations. Neither should we ignore the complicit role of government agents tasked with regulating the drug trade and securing our airports. Why was it so easy for the couriers to elude the security measures in place in our airport, but so easy for Chinese authorities to detect the drugs they were carrying? Why are our borders so porous?
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STILL, in the end, you design your own life. The decisions you make, after weighing the pros and cons of a course of action, are yours alone, and the negative even dangerous consequences are yours to face.
I can’t quite understand why we are being asked to dive into the bathos of the story, when the three actually brought dishonor to the country. Their crime – of which some 600 Filipinos are charged with in China and other parts of the world—will make the Filipino passport once more a symbol of risk. It used to be that immigration officials suspected every Filipino of wanting to stay illegally in their country. Now all of us – especially legitimate OFWs – are under suspicion of being drug couriers.
If there is one positive development as a result of the media coverage, it may be to drive home the dangers of seemingly innocuous offers of free international travel and even free carry-on bags. It should alert ordinary folk to look with caution and suspicion on offers that seem too good to be true. And might we wish for the gift of discernment between real victims and those complicit in their own tragedies?

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