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Monday, 21 February 2011

Tuesday Headlines: Palace: No concessions to China for reprieve

     MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang clarified yesterday that no concessions were given to China for the latter’s grant of a reprieve to three overseas Filipino workers facing execution for drug trafficking.

    Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Vice President Jejomar Binay had categorically denied offering concessions to China after securing postponement of the execution of Ramon Credo, 42; Sally Ordinario-Villanueva, 32; and Elizabeth Batain, 38. The three were scheduled for execution this week.
Binay announced the development Friday after meeting with Dai Bongguo, state councilor; Wang Shengjun, president of the Supreme People’s Court; and Zhang Zhijun, executive vice minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

     Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos, who was with Binay on his Beijing trip, said the meeting was not behind closed doors and no concession could have been given without the public getting the information. “We gave no concessions to them. It was a gesture of goodwill and friendship as also enunciated by their diplomatic officials here,” Lacierda said. For its part, the Chinese embassy in Manila said China only “gave consideration” to the Philippines’ request. “China received the request and as friendly neighbor the Chinese side gave consideration,” said Sun Yi, political officer and spokesman of the Chinese embassy.
Lacierda also downplayed concerns over the possibility of the Philippines becoming hostage to China as a result of the issue.

    “We have, again, stated that no concessions were made. In fact, that was a request from this government and based on the joint statement, they postponed the execution within the scope of Chinese laws. That is something that they would have to define, we are not familiar with Chinese laws. But definitely, again, we are saying categorically that no concessions were given to the Chinese government. It was a gesture of friendship,” Lacierda said.

     Lacierda also said the fact that the Philippines was able to secure a postponement of the execution should belie claims that the government was weak.

    “Since the Flor Contemplacion case, our policy has been to protect our overseas contract workers – that’s the policy that we have here in the Philippines and that’s a good policy because we have plenty of overseas contract workers who we are required to protect. Now, the diplomatic intervention can only come in once the sentence is issued. Before that, you cannot interfere in the judicial proceedings – that’s the same thing that happened in China,” Lacierda said.

    Contemplacion was a Filipina domestic helper executed in Singapore in 1995 for murder. Her execution strained relations between Singapore and the Philippines. The Ramos government also faced severe criticisms for failing to stop the execution.

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