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Drugs arrests set off warning from Consulate

07 March 2016

By Vir B. Lumicao

The arrests of two Filipinas in seven days in connection with suspected drugs trafficking into Hong Kong have prompted the Consulate to issue a warning for vigilance among would-be travelers to the territory.

Vice Consul Alex Vallespin, who is acting head of the assistance to nationals section, said Filipinos should make sure any goods or presents that friends request them to carry do not contain illegal items.

“Pinapaalalahanan namin ang ating mga kababayan na bumibiyahe papuntang Hong Kong, whether tourists, workers or residents, na huwag magdadala ng mga ipinagbabawal na droga at gamot dahil definitely napakahigpit ng Hong Kong airport,” Vallespin said.

He also said the latest arrests were alarming as they involved bigger amounts of drugs. He said the Consulate had been communicating to the airport authorities in Manila its misgivings about why such huge consignments of illegal drugs could clear Customs undetected at Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

The warning came after the two Filipinas -- one a domestic helper in Dubai and another who claimed to be a merchant from Cebu – appeared separately in Tsuen Wan Court on Feb 15 and 16 to face charges of trafficking in dangerous drugs.

The OFW, identified in court documents as Gimena Penascosa, was arrested on the evening of Feb 13 shortly after arriving from Dubai with 248 pellets of suspected cocaine weighing a total of 4.46 kilograms with a market value of $4.8 million.

The second was Rizza Mae Argamaso, 28, who was held after arriving in Hong Kong from Cebu with 5.3 kilos of suspected cocaine hidden inside shoes, folders and handbags.
“Pinapaalalahanan natin ang mga kababayan natin na kung nakalusot sila, darating at darating ang panahon na mahuhuli sila,” Vallespin said.

“Hindi basta-basta ang parusa. Five million dollars yaong pinakamataas na fine at life imprisonment ang nakasulat sa Hong Kong Dangerous Drugs Ordinance. Hindi po biru-biro iyon,” he said.

The usual excuse of arrested carriers is that they have only been requested to deliver parcels for friends and other people without knowing what the contents are, said Vallespin.

But as shown by a number of cases over the years, the courts or juries rarely accept this as a valid excuse. “You’ve got to be vigilant, especially if you don’t know what’s inside the package,” he said.
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