Pardons sought for Zambo couple in Sabah death row PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 15 July 2015 11:57

The Philippine Government remains focused on providing assistance to a Filipino couple from Zamboanga City who was earlier meted the death penalty in Sabah for drug trafficking, and sent letters of appeal to request for their early release on humanitarian grounds.

The Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur made this clarification in light of the call made by the Ong family for government assistance on the case.

Timhar and Nurie Ong were arrested in August 2005 for drug trafficking, as the couple was found with 333.66 grams of methamphetamines (shabu) hidden in a shoebox during a raid undertaken in a hotel in Kota Kinabalu they were staying.  The couple claimed that the prohibited drugs were left with them by a Filipina they met at the airport.

“Upon affirmation of the guilty verdict by the Federal Court, Malaysia’s highest court, letters of appeal for the grant of clemency or pardon were sent to the relevant authorities,” the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur said.

In September 2010, President Benigno S. Aquino III sent a letter of appeal to the Agong (Malaysian King) and to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.  This was followed by another letter of appeal sent to the Governor of Sabah by Ambassador J. Eduardo Malaya in 2012.

Those appeals are currently under consideration by the Sabah Pardon Board, which is chaired by the Governor of Sabah. 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.

The couple were convicted of drug smuggling and sentenced to life imprisonment by the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak in November 2006, but the prosecutor appealed the penalty, which is allowed by Malaysian law. The sentence was then raised to death penalty in October 2009 by the Putrajaya Court of Appeal. The Federal Court affirmed the death penalty in April 2010. They were assisted by legal counsel during the proceedings.

“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 added.

“Officials from the Philippine Embassy have regularly visited the Ong couple, the last time on June 17. The DFA and the Embassy also send updates on the case to their family,” the Embassy said.

The DFA reiterated on 8 July 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 most cases, including in Malaysia.