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Philippine VP cancels China trip to save convict

June 30, 2013

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine vice president canceled a trip Sunday to China on which he was to make a final appeal to China’s president to spare the life of a Filipino drug convict facing imminent execution, saying Beijing discouraged him from visiting.

Vice President Jejomar Binay said he was notified by the Chinese Foreign Ministry that it would not be “convenient” for him to visit China at this time. Binay had planned to leave Sunday for Beijing to deliver a letter by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III appealing to his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to commute the death sentence of the convict, a 35-year-old woman, to life imprisonment.

“China has sent word that now would not be a convenient time for me to visit China,” Binay said in a statement, expressing sadness over Beijing’s stance.

The Philippine government was not questioning the woman’s conviction, Binay said, adding that he wanted to fly to China to “personally appeal for compassion.”

Chinese officials did not immediately respond to Binay’s statement.

The woman was scheduled to be executed anytime between this past Thursday and Tuesday, and her family was to travel to China for what could be their final meeting, Raul Hernandez, spokesman for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, said last week.

He told reporters that the woman was arrested at the Hangzhou International Airport in January 2011 along with a Filipino man. She traveled as a tourist and was convicted of hiding heroin in her luggage. Her companion was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve.

Hernandez quoted Chinese authorities as saying the woman had trafficked illegal drugs to China 18 times since 2008 and was paid $3,000 to $4,000 per trip. She pleaded not guilty but the evidence against her was overwhelming, Hernandez said.

China has previously ignored such appeals and executed four Filipino drug convicts in 2011.

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