• Do it quietly the next time

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    There may be no other choice left to us but ask China for mercy on behalf of a compatriot who is facing the death penalty. It is a good idea, however, for us to go about it quietly and without fanfare.

    To announce our intentions to the whole world is to invite rebuff, and that’s exactly what happened the other day.

    The Chinese Foreign Ministry informed the Philippine government it wouldn’t be convenient for Vice President Jejomar Binay to visit Beijing at this time. It was one way of saying that we have no business interfering in that country’s internal affairs. And it did not even make any attempt to couch the rejection in diplomatic language.

    A Filipino woman, who the Department of Foreign Affairs refuses to identify, was arrested in Shanghai for smuggling 12 kilos of heroin. She was tried, convicted, and sentenced to die.

    It’s been suggested that the Chinese are just showing their displeasure at us.

    The Philippines is at odds with China over the latter’s occupation of the Mischief Reef near Palawan and the Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Scarborough Shoal, off the coast of Zambales.

    There is no evidence to support that claim. The Chinese are consistent in the enforcement of their laws against drug trafficking, and they impose the supreme penalty against those who commit the crime, without making any distinction between foreigners and their own citizens.

    The Chinese execute their own citizens for a lesser crime: graft and corruption, for instance. No way with they commute the sentence of a Filipino, or any foreigner for that matter, who has been convicted of drug trafficking, a crime they are so passionate against.

    No plea for the commutation of death sentence made by our government has ever been successful. The Chinese proceeded with the execution of three Filipinos despite representation by high government officials last year.

    The Philippine government should confine itself to providing legal assistance to our compatriots in trouble with the law in another country. The objective is to ensure that their rights are respected, at the trial court and appellate court levels.

    Once the judicial process is exhausted, we should do no more, especially when there is no discernable violation of due process.

    In the first place, we are on shaky ground when we ask China, or any government for that matter, not to carry out the sentence correspondent to the crime. Moreover, we send the wrong signal when we do so, that we condone criminality.

    By all means let us elevate the matter to the ministry level, if we must. But we increase our chances of success if we do it behind the scenes.

    In matters of drug trafficking, however, such a move is useless. We know fully well that the Chinese will just ignore us. Are we doing it merely to gain media mileage? If so the exercise is not only useless but despicable as well.

    The Chinese occupy the high moral ground on the issue.

    If you set aside the argument that the execution of criminals is cruel and inhumane, something that is debatable, you can only admire the Chinese for their no-nonsense enforcement of the law on drug trafficking.

    The Chinese are successful at it too. That is something you cannot say of our government.

    Best wishes for neophyte lawmakers
    In both the Senate and the House of Representatives, there are a number of newcomers, most of whom come from political dynasties.

    These (mostly) young lawmakers were voted into office because they were able to convince their constituents that they could deliver the goods in terms of providing greater employment, additional infrastructure, and more services in such areas as education and healthcare.

    These were generic promises and motherhood statements, of course, for such is the way of Philippine politics. One does not win a national or local position without the requisite political promises.

    As neophytes, not much is expected of them, particularly in their first weeks and months in office. After all, they will still need to learn the ropes of their job, as well as get to know their more senior peers.

    The luckier ones will be “adopted” by their big brothers and sisters in either house of the bicameral Congress, who will serve as their mentors.

    Others will be forced to sink or swim based on their own abilities, or lack thereof.

    They will all find out soon enough that some of the promises they made are beyond their spheres of influence. Promising law and order or vowing to eliminate graft and corruption are among the usual promises that candidates make, and those running for legislative posts should know better than to assume executive responsibilities that do not belong to them.

    They will learn soon enough, these Young Turks as they are frequently referred to by themselves and by media.

    As they enter the world of the legislature, we can only wish them the best of luck. We do not doubt that most of them have the best intentions of being capable and credible lawmakers, given the opportunity.

    By the same token, we also have no illusions that some of them are salivating for their first taste of pork barrel. For senators, that’s P200 million a year, while for Members of the House, it’s P70 million per annum.

    We can only hope that they make proper use of the funds. And shame on those who are already counting how much in kickbacks they will earn during their first term of office.

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