Just my opinion
By Raïssa Robles
In the early morning hours when Mary Jane Veloso was supposed to be executed, I couldn’t sleep.
I was kept awake thinking how she could have been saved by simple transnational police work on the day she was arrested.
If only there was some kind of a mechanism, procedure or protocol among ASEAN countries that could have verified what Veloso had told airport security the day she was arrested.
The problem with nabbing drug traffickers is that their crime starts in one or two countries and is perpetrated in a third.
For instance, Veloso was — unwittingly — recruited as a mule in Manila. But she only really became one in Kuala Lumpur. And she was caught as one in Jakarta.
How do you investigate that kind of crime and catch the real perpetrators?
Only an agreement signed by countries under the ASEAN umbrella can help, alongside with China. Ironically, the year 2015 is supposed to be the target set for a “Drug Free ASEAN” (see at the end of this piece).
Here’s how it might work.
The moment Mary Jane was caught in Jakarta a case officer would try to gauge whether Mary Jane was really a mule, and if so, if she could be used to take the police up the food chain so that instead of merely nabbing a (probably innocent) foot soldier authorities can target the masterminds, or at least try to round up the contacts she was instructed to meet.
For this approach to work ASEAN must agree collectively that the imprisonment (and execution) of mules is not the priority, that they can be used to help arrest the actual members of the drug syndicates who run this operation. Cooperation means they would get leniency.
The second thing that (theoretical) ASEAN police coordination could have done in Mary Jane’s case is extraction of actionable intelligence. An officer could have drawn out all the details from Mary Jane. For instance, she said she had stayed for three days with her neighbor named Christine at the Sun Inn Lagoon Hotel near Pyramid Mall in KL. She had met Christine’s boyfriend and the latter’s brother whom she named “I.k” at the hotel parking lot. And it was “I.k” who had bought her the bag found with heroin.
Each country-member of ASEAN could have a quick reaction force dedicated to collectively fight cross-border drug-trafficking. In Mary Jane’s case, the quick reaction force based in KL would be quickly contacted and told to look for “I.k”, Christine’s boyfriend and the latter’s brother. The same QRF will alert immigration authorities in KL and other airports to be on the look out for all four and to nab them for questioning. In addition, KL’s immigration will draw from its databanks everything they have on Christine. The airline which Mary Jane and Christine took from Manila to KL will be asked to look for the true identity of Christine and who paid for the airfares. In the case of airlines, the ASEAN will draw up agreements with all the airlines which fly in and out of the region’s airports.
In this way, the airlines’ cooperation with the QRF would become routine. Under the agreement, each airline will assign someone at each airport to process QRF requests.
Immigration authorities across ASEAN would also be routinely advised of any person of interest in connection with cross border drug arrests. [NOTE: It is the same system that banks use to flag deposits which exceed certain thresholds.] In Mary Jane’s case, Manila’s immigration would be asked to watch out for Christine’s arrival at any airport and hold and question her the moment she arrived.
ASEAN should not stop its efforts there, though. The institution should produce ads that can be played in all the TV sets of airport terminals warning passengers – in various languages – to beware of becoming unwitting and even willing mules of drug syndicates. The ad should also warn passengers not to give in to strangers’ requests for them to check in anything for them through the airport gates.
This warning is particularly important for women travelers from Manila. I remember that a fellow traveler once asked me to hold for her a package at the weigh-in gate because she said her luggage was already overweight. I was about to do it out of kindness when better sense told me not to. When I turned down her request she looked offended and left.
The ad should also give out information that there is a specific counter at the airport where a mule who is having second thoughts could report her situation and turn herself in, cooperate in getting the drug traffickers arrested and convicted, and get leniency for doing so.
Drug traffickers nowadays do a lot of recruiting on Facebook. I think that if a woman is facing the death penalty in another country and her only defense is that she was duped into falling in love with a man who recruited her as a drug courier through Facebook, then Facebook should seriously consider handing over evidence of their online communications to be used for her defense in her court trial.
That is the case with an Australian mother named Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto. She now faces a possible death penalty in Malaysia after a bag she was carrying was found to contain over 50 grams of ice (shabu). She said a man who had romanced her online asked her to carry a bag containing documents from Shanghai to KL.
Her case has just now been transferred to a high court.
Considering that Exposto could be hanged for the crime, will the site where she met the man online now be willing to provide her lawyers evidence and even a way of tracing the man’s real identity?
Gethesame Gardener says
Is Patricia Macam Assigned To PH Embassy In Singapore ?
Very sad after reading this :
Patricia has a lot of answering to do. Seems like she screwed things up for Mary Jane .
Wonder what does at the PH Embassy in Singapore?.If her job is to help OFW’s, then it wouldn’t be so difficult to get feedback on her reputation.
Look. . . is this SAFE to reveal their names in the news papers?
‘The task force’s NBI component will be led by Eric Nuqui, chief of the agency’s antihuman trafficking division and Joel Tovera, chief of the anti-illegal drug unit. Also part of the task force are NBI lawyers Basset Sarip, Giselle Dumlao, Gertrude Gay Manandeg, Joel Bomediano, Eduardo Ramos and Henry Canapi and special investigators Danilo Garay, Roy Rufino Sunega and Joel Otic.
Senior assistant state prosecutor Susan Dacanay will lead the NPS component, together with assistant state prosecutors Mark Ronald Estepa, Olive Torrevillas and Niven Canlapan; while the IACAT component is composed of senior assistant city prosecutors Jonathan Lledo and Ralph Michael Cataquiz, who are both members of the National Inter-Agency Task Forces Against Trafficking.
The DOJ legal staff—state counsels Mildred Bernadette Alvor, Nancy Lozano and Richelle Mari Marders—will also join the task force.’
it will be open season for the drug syndicates to know who are the gov’t personnel involved to stop the menace.
My opn….DOJ etc. should not reveal the names and even photos of gov’t agents etc.
I do not know if Maria Cristina Sergio’s case when she was still a government employee in Bicol is being looked into.
Apparently Ms. Sergio forged the checks in the amount of 300 million pesos but she was just made to resign. As a government employee then, wasn’t she liable.
Bakit resignation lang, who was the chief executive then that cleared her? Yet nakapag-aral pa at nakapagwork after, sa Bicol din before the Mary Jane Veloso issue came out.
The 1987 Constitution states, among others, that public officials shall be accountable and responsible AT ALL TIMES – means they can still be prosecuted even if separated from the public service.
Rashid Fabricante says
Worldwide Customs bureaus should create separate lanes for anyone who was asked to carry anything for someone else and any such passenger who uses the lane would be granted immunity and protection in the event drugs are found. It could be boldly advertised throughout individual airports…it could also be an escape hatch for trafficked persons to free themselves from their captors. If drugs are found, the passenger could even possibly complete the transaction in order to arrest the recipient of the drugs.
Irineo B. R. Salazar says
What might make sense is a police area in the departure zone of every ASEAN airport where people can go to if they have doubts about luggage given to them and have it searched – and go scot-free if they disclose exactly up-front who gave them the luggage or padala and cooperate in investigations.
Kung ako NBI or PNP, I would make an agreement to place an NBI and a PNP person in the pre-departure area of every airport to answer questions of departing Filipinos – and ask people with much luggage some questions, but only if they are willing to answer them on a voluntary basis… “Marami po yata kayong dala, meron lang sana kaming tanong at ipapayo sa inyo. Alam ba ninyo na maraming nang Pilipinong napatay dahil ginamit sila para magpadala ng droga? Sigurado ba kayo sa lahat ng ibinigay sa inyo?” Maybe even DFA people who give info flyers out… Preventive measures.
alam mo @ireneo. knowing the mentality of our corrupt policemen there, baka kahit wala kang dalang drugs, sisitahin ka nila at lalagyan nila ang maleta mo noon at sasabihing, meron silang natagpuan na drugs sa mga dala mo pero kung magbabayad ka ng lagay na ganitong sum of money, palalayain ka namin. Ayos na. meron na naman silang bagong modus operandi na panibago. not unless, iyong mga ilalagay na mga tao diyan, makapagtitiwalaan mo. But who checks who? karaniwan na sa atin ang 20% si Boss kami tig pa-5% lang.
Irineo B. R. Salazar says
There must be a few clean people, otherwise all of this makes no sense at all. Plus I would put the offices where they do the search under 24h camera and microphone surveillance. Meaning they have to produce electronic footage how they found whatever they found.
Yes, the kind of stuff you are mentioning gives the Philippines really bad reputation – hulidap. Wala akong naririnig na ganyan about Indonesia or Malaysia kahit corrupt din doon.
Tama! [email protected] . . na unahan mo ako dyan. Pero . . . tama ka.
CTVs or cameras monitoring at all nooks and corners at NAIA should be installed.
di ba, they have tried that? tapos, sinasabi, nasira ang CTV. Ipapaayos, sisirain este, masisira na naman. hanggang, huwag nang ipaayos. baka kakuntsaba pa nila ang mga officials diyan. sana nga.
Rashid Fabricante says
just thinking aloud Mam @Raissa! suntok sa buwan ang idea na yan pero baka sakali ma pick up ni Gen. Honrado or Guerzon ng MIAA..
Back to the issue of Veloso, the main service provider is DFA OUMWA and our Phil. Mission overseas, have they been consistent in applying
their own very charter ie.
TIMELINESS, RESPONSIVENESS and EFFECTIVENESS in dealing with any case of Filipino national facing problem in their host country of destination?