MANILA – A House Committee approved on Wednesday a bill that would make foreigners think twice about committing drug-related crimes in the Philippines.
According to House Committee on Dangerous Drugs Chairman Vicente Belmonte, House Bill 1213 seeks the harshest penalties, including death, on foreigners found violating drug-related Philippine laws.
"The committee approved the bill to deter foreign nationals from engaging in drug-related activities in the country," Belmonte said in Committee Report No. 58 on HB 1213.
The bill proposes the imposition of the penalty for drug offenses as prescribed under the national law of the foreign national or the penalty under R.A. 9165, whichever is higher, a House press statement said Wednesday.
"While there is no reason to question the laws of foreign countries, we must ensure that our countrymen do not suffer the short end of the stick," bill author Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City) said.
HB 1213 is co-authored by Rep. Maximo Rodriguez (partylist, Abante Mindanao).
During the bill’s public hearings, the authors also noted arguments against R.A. 9346 which abolished the death penalty in the country, saying many foreigners were emboldened to establish their drug factories in the Philippines.
"Once convicted, these foreign nationals only suffer life imprisonment as opposed to the penalties that they suffer in their own countries which, in some cases like China, is death," they said.
The authors also cited reports of foreign nationals caught selling drugs and operating drug dens and laboratories in the country. Once caught and convicted, the penalty that local courts can impose is only life imprisonment, the authors said.
"This is a sad, or even an unfair situation, because when Filipinos are caught trafficking drugs abroad, they may be meted the death penalty, as seen in the most recent execution of three Filipinos in China, namely Elizabeth Batain, 38; Sally Ordinario-Villanueva, 32; and Ramon Credo, 42," the authors said.
Just last July 3, 2013, Rodriguez recalled, a 35-year-old Filipina was executed despite pleas from the Philippine government. She was caught last January 25, 2011 with 6.198 kilos of heroin in her luggage at the Hangzhou International Airport and was sentenced to death in 2011.
"While the rationale for the passage of R.A. 9346 (abolition of the death penalty) is very clear and noble, there are some sectors of society who believe that this law is not just and equitable because while foreigners may not be executed in the Philippines for drug trafficking, Filipinos who commit the same are executed in other jurisdictions," the bill's authors argued.