‘Transfer of Sentenced Persons’ to give convicts option to serve time in their home country
Senator Panfilo Lacson on Monday, August 19, called for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to pursue more Transfer of Sentenced Persons agreements with other countries, pointing out the efforts of the government to help Filipino drug convicts abroad while it is “killing people” in the Philippines.
“How do you reconcile [the fact that] here in our country we’re killing people and then we’re saving drug convicts detained in another country. I’m just curious,” Lacson asked Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. during the hearing of the Senate foreign affairs relations committee.
“Going back to the repatriation of Filipino convicts, maybe you should pursue more Transfer of Sentenced Persons treaties, just like what we have with Spain. I’m just wondering if they would agree to be transferred to Muntinlupa [that is, the New Bilibid Prison] from where they are being detained abroad,” he added.
According to the Treaty on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, individuals tried and convicted in a foreign country would have the option to serve their time remaining their sentence in their home country.
Lacson’s statement came following the data released by the DFA during the meeting that showed that most Filipinos overseas were detained due to drug charges.
Normally, the DFA offers financial and legal aid to Filipinos abroad through the assistance to nationals (ATN) or the legal assistance fund (LAF).
DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola said P1 billion is allotted for the ATN while the LAF has a P200 million budget.
She added that the DFA has spent P483 million, or 48%, of its ATN fund and P81 million, 41%, of its LAF from January to July 2019.
Arriola also noted that overseas Filipinos on death row due to conviction in drug cases had been provided with lawyers “since the inception of the case.”
“It’s just that many of them are drug mules or some of them, like in the case in Mexico we have constructive possession of drugs in a ship, but we make representations with the countries of destination that we ask for due process and speedy resolution of the case,” she explained.
Filipinos first, convicts second
In response to Lacson’s question, Locsin said: “Frankly, I used to wonder about that. That’s why I continue to support the abolition of death penalty because I cannot see how, now that we abolished it, if we restore it, how can we appeal if we feel that there is a possibility of miscarriage of justice in a foreign country.”
“How can we appeal for mercy or a commutation of sentence? That’s a completely unresolved issue as far as I’m concerned,” he added.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, for his part, said it does not mean that Filipinos who violated another country’s laws should not be punished.
“We are not saying that they [Filipino convicts abroad] should not be punished, but since they are our nationals, we take care of them, we monitor how they are treated, we look at their condition. So is that a way to rationalize?” said the chair of the Senate foreign relations committee.
“Cause we will never ask a foreign country, do not punish our countryman who is involved in drugs because we also will jail him here if he violates our loss. But when you incarcerate him and you punish him, we should be allowed to take a look and pay a visit to our countryman and look at his condition or situation,” he added.
Lacson noted that a possible justification for the DFA effort to assist convicts overseas is that the government will treat them as Filipinos first and convicts second.
“If our intention is to really take care of our own nationals, it would be better if they were here. So maybe in coordination with hose foreign countries, we can pursue that path,” he said. (AJPress)