If you live in the Philippines, the big news of the day is sorrow and anger that China has executed three of our OFW (overseas foreign workers) for carrying drugs into China.

The anger is partly because two of the “drug mules” were women with families, and many Filipinos who have family members overseas shudder at the danger faced by their family members. You see, here in the provinces, nearly every family who is middle class or poor has family members working overseas or on ships. If you are educated, the job as a nurse or caretaker or skilled worker gives you some protection, but many are minimally educated poor people who work at unskilled jobs as maids, nannies, factory workers,  drivers etc. who send their wages home to support their family. This is, alas, the only way open to many to try to raise their family out of poverty, and many of our educated middle class can thank a parent, an aunt, an uncle, etc. who sacrificed their own careers so that they could support their families and pay for their education.

To those who are poor and have few chances to earn a decent wage, the chance of making money carrying a package is tempting.

According to PDEA data, drug syndicates pay mules up to $3,000 for each successful trip. Some are recruited as tourists, while others are promised jobs abroad.

Yes, one of the women claimed she wasn’t aware of what was in the suitcase, but that was deliberate ignorance: after all, it could have been a bomb. And that is the scary part. You see, two of these people actually flew to China from Philippine airports. Last time I traveled, our bags and our person were checked twice. Since one suspects these three condemned criminals are only the tip of the iceburg,  one can only conclude that there are payoffs to someone to overlook such things, not exactly a comfortable idea in these days of terrorist bombs.

On one hand, one has little sympathy for these people: they were carrying heroin, a killer drug that has spawned an HIV epidemic in China. Nor is being poor an excuse to commit a crime that could result in the deaths by overdose, criminal actions, addiction or HIV of those who use the illegal substance.

Yet their poverty and desperation do mitigate their behavior somewhat in the scales of justice, and there is a lot of anger that these “drug mules” will lose their lives while the many rich who make money off of the drug trade and corruption get away scot free.

You see, Heroin is not grown in the Philippines: It is trafficked here from Thailand or Pakistan on the way to other countries, not just China but the US and Canada. So who bought it there, smuggled it here, and then arranged for someone to contact these workers?

But the intertwining of drugs and corruption is an ongoing problem, especially when money allows the powerful to get away with it. Here, the main problem is “shabu” (methamphetamine) and marijuana, and it is also a major source of corruption in some areas.

The rich who supervise the business of growing, exporting, importing, smuggling of drugs, the rich who bribe policemen, military, local officials to look the other way, the rich who think their hard working lives entitles them to use drugs to get high, the rich who allow corruption at all levels of society.

So where is the church in all of this? Praying for the souls of the condemned, fighting against the death penalty all over the world (it is no longer allowed here). Yes the local pastors and priests preach against drug use, promiscuity and illegal gambling, but naming names is another thing. Not only might it get you sued for libel, it could result in someone claiming you were taking bribes or doing naughty things, or even could get you hurt.

One trusts that the sufferings of these victims in jail and their obvious repentance will speed them quickly to a place in heaven where “God will wipe their tears away”.

But what about those who benefit financially from the tears of the families of those harmed or killed or suffering from drugs? Yes, I read in the US there is a new book that claims that there isn’t really a “hell” because we’re all such good people, but I wonder…I seem to remember what a certain sardonic Jewish carpenter said about those who tempted the “little ones” of God to sin…something like they needed to be thrown into a lake with a millstone around their neck.

Sounds good to me.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She blogs at Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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