MANILA, Philippines (AP) — China has executed two Filipinos for drug trafficking despite high-level Philippine government appeals to commute their death sentences to life in prison, the Philippine government said Saturday.
The Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila did not identify the two Filipinos, citing the wishes of their families for privacy. It added that it did not announce the Nov. 24 executions until the Philippine government was formally notified by China.
No other details were immediately given by Chinese or Philippine authorities about the executions and the drug trafficking cases.
The DFA said that from the time the two Filipinos were arrested in 2013 until their 2016 convictions by a lower Chinese court, it provided all possible help, including funding for their legal defense.
“The government of the Republic of the Philippines further exhausted all measures available to appeal to the relevant authorities of the People’s Republic of China to commute their sentences to life imprisonment on humanitarian grounds,” the DFA said. “There were also high-level political representations in this regard.
"The Chinese government, citing their internal laws, upheld the conviction and the Philippines must respect China’s criminal laws and legal processes,” the DFA said.
"While the Philippine government will continue to exhaust all possible avenues to assist our overseas nationals, ultimately it is the laws and sovereign decisions of foreign countries, and not the Philippines, which will prevail in these cases.”
The executions came at a difficult point in the relations of China and the Philippines due to escalating territorial disputes in the South China Sea. The Philippines, through the DFA, has filed more than 100 diplomatic protests over aggressive actions by China in the disputed waters since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. took power in June last year.
The DFA said that while it was saddened by the executions of the Filipinos, their deaths strengthen “the government’s resolve to continue our relentless efforts to rid the country of drug syndicates that prey on the vulnerable, including those seeking better lives for themselves and their families."
It renewed a reminder to Filipinos traveling abroad to be vigilant against drug syndicates, which recruit travelers to serve as “drug mules” or couriers, and to refuse to carry any uninspected package from other people.
Two other death penalty cases involving Filipinos are on appeal and under final review in China, DFA spokesperson Teresita Daza said, without elaborating.
One other Filipino, Mary Jabe Veloso, is facing execution in Indonesia after being convicted of drug trafficking. Marcos has said that he has appealed for a commutation of her death sentence or a pardon but it remains to be seen whether that will be granted.
The Philippines is a major global source of labor and Filipino officials have been particularly concerned over the vulnerability of poor Filipinos to being exploited by drug syndicates.