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Filipina drug courier warned against seeking further sentence cut

22 May 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

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These are the cocaine pellets seized from Penascosa at the HKIA upon her arrival from Dubai on Feb 13, 2016.

A Filipina former helper who was jailed nearly three years ago for 15 years and five months for drug trafficking failed in her bid today, May 22, to seek a High Court review of her sentence and got instead a warning not to push her appeal.

Court of Appeal Justice Andrew Macrae said appellant Imelda G. Pensacosa was lucky she got a substantial discount in her sentence despite being found to have lied about a fellow Filipina's alleged involvement in her case.

Penascosa had asked for a shorter sentence, saying she helped airport Customs officers in a controlled but unsuccessful try to trap the recipient of the drug on the night of her arrest on Feb 13, 2016.

When Macrae asked why the applicant was appealing 29 months out of time, she said she needed to be with her children and her sick mother.

The mother of three also cited her work with prison chaplain Fr. John Wotherspoon in warning women against drug cartels that dupe them into becoming drug carriers.

She pleaded guilty on Nov 8, 2017 to trafficking in a dangerous drug before High Court Judge Gareth Lugar-Mawson just before she was supposed to go on trial.

Her lawyer then asked for a lenient sentence, but Lugar-Mawson said the 33% discount he gave her was already light considering her delayed guilty plea, the amount of drug involved and the international aspect of the case.

Customs & Excise officers seized from Penascosa three metal boxes of chocolate which she claimed were handed to her at Dubai airport by another Filipina named Jennifer, as presents for her children.

The boxes were found to contain 248 pellets of solid cocaine weighing a total of four kilos. Inside was 3kg of pure cocaine with a street value of more than $4 million.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.

Penascosa, a former domestic worker in Macau, said in a letter to Justice Macrae that she was not aware the metal boxes contained a dangerous drug. She said she met Macau-based Jennifer and her Filipino partner Edilberto when she applied for a job with the man’s employers there.

Summing up her case, the judge said Penascosa flew to Dubai via Hong Kong on Feb 8 on an Emirates Airlines return ticket allegedly bought by Jennifer, but found no job there.

In Dubai, two men – one of whom Penascosa understood to be Jennifer’s brother –gave her two mobile phones, one her for communications in the emirate and another, for her use in Hong Kong.

Pindutin para sa detalye
Penascosa was also told to contact a certain Tony, described as the boss, who would send his brother Mike to meet her at Dubai Airport. Instead, it was Jennifer who showed up, handed her the boxes of chocolates, then boarded the same flight to Hong Kong.

But when Macrae asked for information about Jennifer, the prosecutor said it was on record that the Filipina was not in Hong Kong on the dates Penascosa mentioned. Macrae said Lugar-Mawson apparently did not believe her tale about Jennifer.

Justice Macrae acknowledged Fr Wotherspoon’s letter crediting the applicant’s help in his campaign for drastically cutting the number of Filipinas “drug mules” that made her one of the last 20.

But he said the 15 years and 5 months the appellant got was already two and a half years lighter than the 17 years and 11 months that would have been rightly meted her, as her offense normally called for 23 years plus an extra 5 years due to its international aspect.

The judge said she could still appeal, but warned her that if she does, the court could take back the extra two and a half years discount that she got because of the Jennifer spin.

Wotherspoon, who attended the hearing, expressed surprise afterwards at the disclosure about Jennifer not being in Hong Kong on Feb 13, 2016. He said Penascosa was lucky her extra discount was not taken back.

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