I was reading the news online today as part of my daily routine when I happened to have read an article about a former lady teacher in China being arrested this week and sentenced to death due to drug smuggling. She is a Filipina. I paused for awhile and tried to relate it to a recent encounter I had in my recent business trip just also this week.

Locked Up AbroadI have also published below the news article that I have read and a link within it to a DFA news article for reference. Anyway, I could have almost been locked up abroad by almost falling prey to such scheme but thanks to NATGEO, I was saved! Could the teacher be the same lady who have approached me at the airport? Well, I have no clue but here’s what happened 2 days ago.

Just last November 3, 2010 as I was checking-in at Shanghai Pudong International Airport in China on my way home to Manila under Philippine Airlines, I was approached by an old lady asking if I can help her check-in some of her excess baggage. She has tried other passengers before me so I have already sensed that I was the next person she would approach.

She told me that she is a teacher and will be opening up a school for orphaned and special kids and she got some toys as donation from China in her bags. I wanted to believe her but I was also fearing for my safety especially being in China where laws are strict. Thus, I politely said NO.

NatGeo I have watched several stories in NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CHANNEL of travelers being LOCKED UP ABROAD because of accepting bags from strangers. I have read related news as well online about Filipinos getting death sentences because they were caught with illegal drugs on their bags. Thus, I am quite familiar with such modus operandi. Even if it were a genuine request for assistance, saying YES is quite hard.

After saying NO, I got a little guilty so I told her why I cannot help her. Although I do not say that I do not trust her, I had to say NO because of safety reasons as per travel advisories. Anyway, if she needed extra cash to pay her excess baggage, I could have given her but having her bags checked-in under my name is a NO-NO! Well, she said it is okay and just turned her back and asked another passenger.

I travel light so I do not check-in any bags. I do not want to wait so often I would only bring with me 7Kg worth of clothes plus my laptop bag. I travel almost weekly outside the country. I have had similar cases before where I agreed on doing a stranger a favor by sharing my extra baggage allowance so they need not to pay extra but today’s criminal situation and the laws are different than the old days.

I really felt sorry and guilty for not being able to help thinking that maybe she is real and that she is bringing toys for orphaned kids but then I saw her being accompanied by an old Chinese woman who seem to look rich and has the money to pay the excess baggage fee so that was also part of the reason why I also did not agree on checking in her bags under my baggage allowance.

Unfortunately, one guy said yes though. Once we landed in Manila, I was not able to see them both as I stood at the Immigration Area. Maybe they were stopped in Shanghai or maybe something went wrong. I don’t know. I am just thankful that I did the right decision in saying NO though my heart wishes to say YES because it is always a Filipino’s nature to help.

After having to watch several LOCKED UP ABROAD stories at NATGEO, I was more than aware of what could have happened to me if I pick the wrong choices and take the wrong decisions when in a foreign land so I was quite prepared. More so, I guess we all have another lesson that we all need to learn – saying NO to strangers for our own safety! So to all travelers out there… BE CAREFUL!


Former Pinay teacher in China arrested for drug smuggling

11/05/2010 | 01:03 PM

A Filipina, a former teacher, faces the death penalty in China after she was arrested for bringing nearly two kilos of heroin this week.

Citing a report from the Philippine Consulate in Guangzhou, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the woman was arrested in Guangzhou for suspected drug smuggling.

"The said Filipina was found to be carrying 1,996 grams of heroin concealed in a foil packet hidden under her checked-in suitcase," the DFA said on its website. (Click for related news article from DFA)

Personnel of the Guangzhou Customs District Bureau of Anti-smuggling made the arrest, the DFA said.

While it did not name the former teacher, the DFA said the Filipina used to work as a school teacher in Guangdong Province and was even granted an alien employment permit by the Chinese government.

The DFA lamented the incident occurred despite recent warnings by the Philippine government against acting as drug mules.

"This unfortunate incident still happened despite the successive warnings issued by the DFA and various Philippine Embassies and Consulate Generals on the plight of Filipino nationals who have been meted with the death penalty for drug-smuggling," the DFA said.

It added the former teacher’s possible involvement in an illegal activity "gives a new impression to the recruitment of potential drug mules."

According to the DFA, international drug syndicates seem to recruit young professionals or office workers with presentable personalities, and who could easily pass as tourists.

"In most cases, single mothers or separated housewives are most vulnerable to the drug mule offers," it said.

At present, there are 100 drug-smuggling cases within the Consulate’s jurisdiction alone. About 78 of these cases involve women.

One death penalty case remains pending before the People’s Supreme Court in Beijing.

The Philippine Consulate General reiterated its appeal to the public to be vigilant in accepting offers of travel and work abroad, or in accepting packages from people they hardly know.

In China, a person caught with more than 50 grams of illegal drugs will suffer the death penalty if convicted.

According to the Consulate, protection from falling in a distressful situation abroad is a responsibility that should be foremost in every Filipino.

The DFA said if a person allows himself to be used by international drug syndicates in exchange for money, he must also be ready to face severe penalties.