MANILA (Mabuhay) – The Philippine government has repeatedly appealed to Malaysian authorities to release on humanitarian grounds a Pinoy couple sentenced to death in Sabah for drug smuggling, the embassy said Tuesday.
Timhar and Nurie Ong were arrested in August 2005 after authorities found 333.66 grams of methamphetamines hidden in a shoebox during a raid in the hotel in Kota Kinabalu where they were staying.
Sabah and Sarawak’s High Court convicted the couple of drug smuggling and sentenced them to life imprisonment in November 2006 but raised the sentence to death penalty in October 2009.
According to the couple, the prohibited drugs were left with them by a Filipina they met at the airport.
The embassy said the appeal was contained in two letters, one of them, dated September 2010, by President Benigno Aquino III addressed to Agong (Malaysian King) and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
A follow-up letter, this time by Ambassador Eduardo J. Malaya and addressed to the Governor of Sabah, was sent in 2012, the embassy said.
“Those appeals are currently under consideration by the Sabah Pardon Board, which is chaired by the Governor of Sabah,” the embassy said in a statement. “The grant of clemency or pardon is purely discretionary on the part of the Pardon Board, and in most cases, given only after lengthy imprisonment.” it added.
The embassy issued the statement after the Ong family called for government assistance on the case.
In its statement, the embassy noted that “there has been reluctance by local authorities to carry out the death penalty or undertake execution in recent years, particularly for drug trafficking offenders.”
“There are no indications at this time that the death penalty will be carried out against the couple Ong anytime soon,” the embassy said.
It also said that embassy officials last visited the couple on June 17.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), meanwhile, is reiterating its appeal to Filipinos to be aware of modus operandi of drug trafficking syndicates anywhere in the world, and to not fall victim to them, as it carries the death penalty in many countries, including in Malaysia. (MNS)