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Judge orders further probe of self-confessed Pinay drug mule

08 December 2016

By Vir B. Lumicao

Father John displays the photos of Filipina partners of
Nigerian drug lords who have offered unsuspecting women
free trips to Dubai and Hong Kong on errands to carry
packages or suitcases that turn out to be laden with cocaine.
A 52-year-old Filipina pleaded guilty at the High Court on Friday, Nov 18, to a charge of trafficking in dangerous drugs, but contradicted her plea when she initially questioned the facts of the case as it was read out, before admitting it reluctantly.

The last-minute shift of Susan B. Cumpio caught everyone by surprise and prompted Judge Kevin Paul Zervos to delay sentencing until Feb 3, as he ordered the prosecution to make further inquiry into the case.

“Guilty,” Cumpio, a widow who had a son in the Philippines, said after a Tagalog court interpreter read out the particulars of the charge, then asked for her plea.

But after the agreed facts were read to her, she initially said she disagreed because there was something wrong with them, then said in resignation: “Sige, oo na lang. (OK, I agree).” Then she wept.

Zervos instructed the prosecution to take Cumpio’s statement about the circumstances of her case. Then he asked why no one asked the Immigration Department about the long travel record of the defendant.

“I noticed that (Cumpio) has had a long history of travel to Hong Kong,” Zervos said, citing that it started on July 13, 2010 and ended with her arrest on Jun 15, 2015.

“Did anybody check with the Immigration about her travel record?” the judge asked, to which the prosecutor replied no one had done that.

Zervos also hit Customs officers who he said were just apprehending people and sitting on the cases focusing on the big picture without looking at the details.

The judge cited new information supplied by prison chaplain and anti-drug trafficking campaigner Fr John Wotherspoon, who requested barrister Richard Donald, for the defense, to hand Zervos a letter appealing for mitigation. “It’s unfortunate that it came rather too late,” the judge said.

But he acknowledged Fr John’s campaign against drug trafficking syndicates using unsuspecting women, and admitted he drew insights from the chaplain’s views before making decisions.

Cumpio was arrested on July 15 last year when she arrived from Sao Paulo, Brazil, via Dubai, and attracted the attention of Customs officers with her unnatural gait. When they searched her, they found nearly two kilos of suspected cocaine wrapped around her thighs and concealed in her tailor-made underwear.

At the High Court on Friday, the prosecutor said the amount the dangerous drug found on her was 1,994 grams with purity of 1,210 grams with an estimated market value of $2.3 million at the time. The prosecution said she had a clear record and was not addicted to drugs.

The defense counsel, in mitigation, said Cumpio was widowed in 2005. She had worked as a shopkeeper and as waitress before she went to work as a domestic helper in Singapore, then in Malaysia and Hong Kong.

In a hand-written statement which Fr Wotherspoon provided to the court, the defendant said she was a widow who had been supporting her son, now 17, and her parents in the Philippines since her husband died.

She went to work as a domestic helper in Sao Paulo looking after the three male children of a Brazilian family. After two years she met a Tanzanian man who she fell in love with and “spent good times together” until the man lost his job and “started acting stranger and becoming abusive towards me.”

Days later Cumpio discovered the man was using drugs and reported him to the police. He was arrested but after his release, things only got worse, Cumpio said. “He started becoming more abusive and (beat) me more often,” she said. At one time the man beat her badly with a wooden plank that caused her to lose her memory.  She recovered at a hospital.

She sought shelter in a church after that beating while her lover was rearrested. However, after police freed the man, he sought her out and they reconciled.

But Cumpio said he only got worse and threatened to kill her on a few occasions. Eventually the man told her about his being in the drugs business and offered her passage  back to the Philippines if she agreed to make a trip to Hong Kong to deliver drugs.

Cumpio said she accepted the offer because she no longer wanted to live in Brazil, and also because she wanted to see her family.

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