Press Release
February 25, 2010

Villar: Vigilance will curb OFW drug mules

Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Manny Villar has urged the newly created Drug Couriers Task Force to exercise extra vigilance to curb the rising number of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) lured into drug smuggling.

Villar said his office has received reports that more OFWs have fallen victims to transnational criminal gangs that deploy them as drug mules.

According to reports from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), in China alone, 66 Filipinos have been sentenced to death for possession of illegal drugs and many are in jail while awaiting their final conviction.

The task force, created last week after President Arroyo signed Administrative Order 279, will develop and implement strategies to counter the recruitment of Filipinos as drug mules by drug syndicates.

It is also tasked to conduct a sustained media campaign to deter the recruitment, and to aggressively prosecute the drug syndicate members operating in the Philippines.

Villar lauded the creation of the task force as the right response to address the problem, and he is hopeful that the multi-agency group will immediately buckle down to work.

"We need to intensify our efforts to stop members of drug syndicates from victimizing our OFWs, many of whom are already languishing in jails in other countries," said Villar.

Villar's Sagip-OFW office has already rescued a number of Filipinos victimized by drug cartels, including OFW Nilfa Dumalagan, who was about to do her first 'drug mule' assignment. She went on a tourist visa to Malaysia where she met and was recruited by a Nigerian married to a Filipina to get a package from Peru. Villar promptly facilitated her rescue and return to the Philippines.

Last year, the former Senate president also filed Senate Resolution 1192 directing the Senate Committee on Public Order and Illegal Drugs to investigate the increasing number of Filipino drug mules.

Villar was prompted to issue the call after migrant workers' groups warned OFWs against accepting carry-on packages or "padala" from strangers or fellow OFWs as these parcels may turn out to be illegal drugs.

"It is really important to keep on reminding OFWs to be more discriminating in accepting 'padala' from their fellow OFWs. Filipinos are quite accommodating and this attitude, although positive, may put them in danger," added Villar.

Drug syndicates, according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), have also been very ingenious in transporting illegal drugs through Filipino drug couriers. Ring members make them swallow capsules containing narcotics, or sew packed drugs into their abdominal cavity to be reopened upon arrival at the destination country.

Last month, a Filipino was sentenced to 10 years in jail in the United Arab Emirates after he was arrested for possession of 99 capsules of cocaine, some of which were inside his stomach, at the Dubai International Airport in April 18 last year. He admitted that he collected $3,000 for transporting the cocaine.

The task force is headed by the PDEA and the DFA, with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Immigration and Customs bureaus, National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine Information Agency, Manila International Airport Authority, and the Philippine Tourism Authority as members.

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