Embassy focused on Zambo couple in Malaysia death row PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 24 July 2015 14:56

by Jasmine Mohammadsali


Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia J. Eduardo Malaya assured the local government of Zamboanga of the Embassy’s continued efforts to secure the release of Timhar and Nurie Ong, a Zamboangueño couple sentenced by the Malaysian Court to die by hanging for drug trafficking.

Ambassador Malaya, in his letter responding to City Mayor Beng Climaco’s earlier request for updates and interventions on behalf of Zamboangueños Timhar and Nurie Ong, said the Embassy “has remained focused on its assistance to Mr. and Mrs. Ong, particularly in efforts to secure their release on humanitarian grounds”.

According to the Ambassador, representatives from the Embassy visited the Ong couple on March and June 2015. Timhar Ong informed the representatives that he is in good condition and being treated well in the prison. Ong, however, requested psychological evaluation and intervention for wife Nurie.

The Embassy is currently awaiting a copy of the results of the evaluation, prior to taking further action, explained Malaya.

On August 11, 2005, Timhar and Nurie Ong were arrested for trafficking drugs in Kota Kinabalu, and charged before the High Court in Kota Kinabalu. On November 8, 2006, the court acquitted them of drug trafficking but charged them of drug possession which carries a lighter penalty. The same court later found them guilty of drug possession on November 24, 2006, and sentenced them to life imprisonment.

After an appeal, the case was elevated to the Court of Appeals which found the two guilty of drug trafficking on April 27, 2009, and amended the earlier sentence of life imprisonment to death penalty. The case was then elevated to the Federal Court, which affirmed the death penalty sentence on April 20, 2010.

Letters of appeal from President Noynoy Aquino were sent in September 2010 to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King) of Malaysia, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, and the Governor of Sabah.

To date, the case of the Ong couple is currently under consideration by the Sabah Pardons Board for possible grant of commutation of sentence or pardon. Like other jurisdictions, the proceedings for the commutation of or pardon are internal to the board, and purely discretionary on the latter’s part, explained Malaya.

The Sabah Pardons Board convened on June 22, 2015 but only cases involving Malaysian nationals were considered. The board is expected to reconvene on September

Malaya also noted in his letter that based on previous cases, the Board commutes sentences only after lengthy imprisonment, e.g., after 20 years. Timhar and Nurie Ong have been in detention for 10 years since their arrests in August 2005.

Malaya further explained that there has been reluctance by Malaysian authorities to carry out the death penalty in recent years. The Prime Minister, detailed the Ambassador’s letter, announced in October 2012 that it would look into the possibility of staying the death sentence for drug offenders pending the Malaysian Government’s decision on the proposal to abolish the mandatory death penalty.

Last month, Mayor Beng Climaco sought the intervention of concerned agencies for legal and diplomatic remedies for the Ong couple. Climaco personally brought the matter to Labor Secretary Rosalinda Bladoz and wrote to the Department of Foreign Affairs to make the necessary interventions.

Climaco in her letters to Baldoz and Del Rosario said the Ong couple are barter trade merchants in the city doing business in Malaysia. “Since 2010 until today, the death sentence has not been executed yet and the family is praying that with timely intervention legal and diplomatic remedies will save the couple.” — Jasmine Mohammadsali