Fast facts: Filipino drug mules


Posted at Dec 08 2011 01:24 PM | Updated as of Dec 13 2011 06:32 PM


Under Chinese law, smuggling of 50 grams (1.76 ounces) or more of any illegal narcotic drug into the country is punishable by death.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said there were originally 6 death penalty convictions without reprieves. Three of these convictions were eventually affirmed by China’s highest court:

  • Ramon Credo:  Caught smuggling 4,113 grams of heroin into Xiamen on December 28, 2008.
  • Sally Ordinario-Villanueva: Intercepted in Xiamen on December 24, 2008 while smuggling 4,110 grams of heroin;
  • Elizabeth Batain: Arrested in Shenzhen on May 24, 2008 for possession of 6,800 grams of heroin.

All three were executed last March 30, 2011.

The penalties of the other two of the six convictions were lowered by the high court from death penalty without reprieve to death penalty with two-year reprieve.

The 35-year old Pinoy executed by lethal injection on December 8 is the last death penalty conviction, without reprieve, which concerns drug trafficking in China’s highest court, the DFA had said.

DFA spokesperson, Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez, said the department had listed 208 drug related cases filed against Filipinos in China, including the case of the 35-year old Filipino drug mule.

Of the total:

  • 70 are cases of death penalty with two year reprieve;
  • 45 cases of life imprisonment;
  • 80 cases of fixed term imprisonment;
  • and 12 cases which are now pending in lower courts in China.

The DFA once again appealed to Filipinos, especially overseas Filipinos workers, not to allow themselves to be victimized by international drug syndicates.

Why and how Filipinos became favorite drug mules

  • Most who become drug couriers are usually from poor families. Others are young professionals or office workers with presentable personalities.
  • They were either recruited online or by fellow Filipinos abroad, lured by free travel and huge allowances.
  • More Filipino women (62%) become drug couriers than men (38%). The women are paid between $500 and $5,000 to swallow tubes containing the drugs, hide it in their underwear, surgically insert the drug package into their waist or insert it into their genitals. Some hide it in their luggage, while others dissolve the drugs and soak it into paper or books.
  • The recruits are asked to go to a country, without carrying drugs yet. Upon landing in that country, the syndicate will then ask the "drug mule" to deliver a package to another destination.
  • A popular route is for the mules to pick up the drugs in a third country then smuggle them into China where new generation of millionaires and rising middle class have become a lucrative market for illicit drugs.
  • The Philippines is not a producer nor a destination but a strategic transshipment hub. The drugs are usually offloaded at any of the unchecked coastlines, then repacked and shipped through airports via Filipino drug mules.