Mon, Jul 01, 2013 - Page 5 News List

Manila official calls off Beijing trip

AFP, MANILA

Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay called off a proposed visit to China yesterday to save a Filipina from being executed there for drug trafficking, saying Beijing had declined to receive him.

Binay said he was to have left during the day, carrying a letter from Philippine President Benigno Aquino to Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) asking him to spare the woman.

“This Saturday, I was informed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China has sent word that now would not be a convenient time for me to visit China,” Binay said in a statement. “I wanted to go to China to personally appeal for compassion. I am sad however that China has chosen to take this position regarding my visit.”

“Given this development, I am left with no option but to cancel my trip to China. I ask for prayers for our compatriot and her family,” he said.

The woman was one of two Filipinos arrested for smuggling more than 12kg of high-grade heroin into China in 2011.

Raul Hernandez, spokesman for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, last week quoted Chinese authorities as saying the woman had trafficked illegal drugs to China 18 times since 2008 and was paid US$3,000 to US$4,000 per trip. She pleaded not guilty but the evidence against her was overwhelming, Hernandez said.

The execution is due to take place sometime between tomorrow and Thursday, Binay’s office has said, while the man had his execution set back by two years.

Chinese embassy spokesmen in Manila could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Aquino sent Binay to China in February 2011 to seek a reprieve for three Filipinos also convicted of drug trafficking, but the three were executed the following month. The executions triggered widespread condemnation in the Philippines, which abolished the death penalty in 2006.

The Philippine foreign department says 213 Filipinos have been jailed in drug-related cases in China. The latest case comes amid already rocky relations between the two countries soured by overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Additional reporting by AP

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