TOO PRETTY TO BE GUILTY


TOO PRETTY

TO BE GUILTY

Showmie, a La Salle alumnae from Bacolod.
(NOTE: Dyaryo Magdalo thanks Gil Camporazo, a blog awardee of La Carlota City, Negros Occidental.)


PRAYERS are whispered day and night.


Tears flow like spring without an end.

Help rushes from all sectors.

All these are dedicated to the dream for a sweet freedom for Flory May Talaban, a teacher from the City of Smile – Bacolod City.

Showmie as she is fondly called by those close to her hearts, all those sympathies and prayers for her all seemed useless.

She still lingers behind the walls of the Correctional Institution for Female Offenders, a minimum security prison, in Bangkok, Thailand.

Flory May was convicted by the Thai First Court, the equivalent of the country’s regional trial court, for possessing more than five (5) kilos of heroin with intent to sell.  

Since her ordeal was made public in April 2011, the local government of Bacolod City  and the Philippine Embassy in Thailand left no stone unturned in seeking her possible release from the Thai correctional wall.

Despite their rush, it is impossible to give her freedom this Christmas day.

The failure of the embassy was perceived to be its late response to the case against Flory May.

There was no embassy representative that assisted her during the filing of the case. There was no envoy during court hearings. There was no legal assistance until the guilty verdict was pronounced and the court meted her life imprisonment.

One possibility for freedom can come from the pardon of the King of Thailand, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

But this royal reprieve requires her admission to the illegal drug trade. But she has remained insistent she is not guilty.

An educated woman for having graduated with Bachelor of Arts in political science from Bacolod City’s University of St. La Salle, Flory May refused to change her plea of “not guilty” because, if her story is true, Dyaryo Magdalo firmly believes she must be acquitted.

She has a face that is too pretty to be guilty.

Indeed, it is very painful and unreasonable for an innocent woman to admit the crime that sent her beyond the reach of her loved ones.

And because of her refusal, the grant for the pardon from the Thai King is impossible to come.

The second option is through the Transfer of Sentence Agreement (TSPA) between the Philippines and Thailand that was formalized in 2002.

The TSPA will send back Flory May from Thailand to the Philippines where she will continue to serve her sentence while her appeal was still pending before the Thai Appellate Court.


Prayers


Filipinos who became familiar with Flory May’s ordeal and who believe in her innocence perpetually pray for her freedom.

Jose Oliver Tiu posted on Facebook his statement: “… I will pray for the release and vindication of Flora May. I hope our Phil govt. will step out and do its best to help our kasimanwa (fellow Bacolodnon).”

The case of Flory May became viral on social networking sites that alarmed others who have loved ones and friends in Thailand.

They contend that it is time to inform their loved ones in Thailand of the modus operandi of a drug syndicate that has victimized this pretty Filipina teacher.

Suzette Lopez gave advice to Facebook readers: “Do not trust anybody especially when you reside in different countries. They should be given orientation on how to handle themselves and be vigilant of things like these. Con artists and members of drug syndicates can smell you from a distance if they can victimize you and be a part of their ring. So do your homework.

Her continued detention at Thai correctional proves that prayers are not enough to give freedom to an innocent Filipina. Indeed, innocence is not enough as a defense, especially when there’s no lawyer to stand by you in court.


Uncontrollable Tears


            When Flory May’s parents, Florentino and Nede, were informed of her unwanted fate in Thailand, especially after her conviction, tears never dried up.

Florentino and Nede, parents of Flory May
            Every day, they weep in their sleep, they eat between sobs, they cry in solitude.

When they were given a chance to see their daughter in Thailand correctional last April, Florentino and Nede never felt her skin for they were separated by a glass wall.

They moaned on the other side of the glass. They contented themselves in seeing her too near, but yet too far.

Florentino and Nede placed their palms on the glass and imagined of touching their daughter on the other side.

Right there, in between sobs, she shared the chronology of events that caused her sufferings away from their love and caress.

Flory May who missed the hugs and kisses of her oldies asked for a spaghetti meal, the pasta she missed in jail. She said she is not used to eating Thai food for being too spicy to her taste.

When the visiting hour ended, Flory May asked her parents to leave her some money to buy Filipino food sold inside the correctional.

While travelling home, Florentino and Nede, felt to have lost the precious flower of the family.

They named her Flory May as a blooming flower in the month of May for she was born on May 2, 1981.  


Devastated


            Since her travel and teaching work abroad, Flory May became the provider of the family. Her continued detention in Thailand has likely broken the wings of her loved ones.

Florentino stuttered when he spoke. To regain his voice, Flory May financially supported his medication.

Since her arrest, the regular speech therapy session of Florentino was stopped. He can no longer afford to pay P250 for every session.

Moreover, her brother who is now in college also dropped from school to earn a living to survive the family.

They now face another wreaking Christmas. For the main, the breadwinner is languishing inside the Thai correctional in Bangkok and can no longer give them food.


Her story


With her ultimate capital – beauty and brain, Showmie traveled to a place alien to her.

She went to China to teach and earn a living.

After her teaching job in China expired, she traveled to Bangkok to find another teaching job with a better pay. 

But a twist of fate destined her to a tragedy.

Instead of teaching, Showmie is now learning the worst lesson of her life behind the walls of the Correctional Institute for Female Offenders in Bangkok, Thailand.

In 2005, she sought a greener pasture across the seas after she was offered a teaching job in China by her friend Chona Jumilla, a principal of Bailu Middle School in Baily Area, Lizhou City, Guangzi province, China.
Showmie, center, with co-teachers in China

But in 2009, Showmie found herself jobless.

To continue her employment abroad, she transferred to Thailand where she was tricked by a Nigerian, apparently a member of a drug syndicate.

With her belief that truth prevails against wrong accusation, Showmie maintained she is innocent of the charge of trafficking more than five (5) kilos of heroin.

But when Thailand’s court meted her life imprisonment for the crime she never did, she hanged her shoulders a little for the truth turned powerless when confronted by pieces of evidence presented against her.

Still without the help of the Philippine Embassy in Thailand, Showmie, with the aid of Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares, a lawyer and a native of Bacolod City, she pursued her legal battle by appealing to Thailand’s Appellate Court to reverse the decision of the Thai First Court.

While staying at an apartment in Bangkok after arriving from China, Showmie met Nigerian national Francisco Yirti who befriended her.

On May 3, 2009, a day after her birthday, Yirti asked Showmie a favor to deliver a bag of encyclopedias to a Thai woman in a mall.

For her not to disappoint a new found friend and in expressing the classic Filipina hospitality, Showmie granted his request.

But before delivering the goods, Showmie dropped by a Kentucky Fried Chicken chain and ate a piece of chicken.

To her surprise, two Thai policemen accosted her and searched her bag of encyclopedias.

To her shocked, the police discovered 2.6 kilos of heroin inside her bag.

After the investigation, Showmie directed authorities to her apartment where a package containing another 2.8 kilos of heroin was seized.

Showmie was charged with illegal possession of the highly-prohibited drugs with intent to sell.

She maintained her innocence and pleaded not guilty at the Thai First Court. But the court handed her a verdict of life imprisonment for the grave offense of “possession of a category 1 illegal narcotic with intent to sell.”


She should be innocent


            Analyzing, the judicial system in Thailand is the same as in the Philippines: where the declarations of the arresting officers are given the presumption of proof that cannot be defeated by the testimony of truth.
Our language is truth, our spirit is liberty.

            Unless one can present evidence of ill motive on the part of the arresting officers, the declarations of the arresting officers cannot be defeated by the testimonies of the accused, no matter how straightforward, no matter how detailed, no matter how candid those testimonies would be.

            Now, there are only three kinds of evidence. 

The first that is given the highest quality is what is called “object evidence.” Courts describe object as mute but speaks better than a thousand witnesses.


            The second best evidence is what is called “documentary evidence.”


            The third and the weakest kind of evidence is “testimonial evidence.”


            Knowing these rules on the weight of evidence given on each kind, we easily see that the only evidence that has a bigger chance of defeating that presumption of truth in the declarations of the arresting officers are those that are documentary or object.


But it is impossible to have documentary evidence in a crime that involves no paper trail.  Much more that it is impossible to have evidence that involves object under this case.


So that in the drug case of any accused, he or she has always no chance of winning under the system of giving weight to the declarations of the police officers as presumed because of the justification that they just performed their job, or what they call “presumption of regularity in the performance of official functions.”


          To understand the presumption of regularity of the law enforcers’ statements, it means that the declarations of the policemen are assumed to be true, even if the truth is that the evidence was just planted as what always happens in the drug busts in the Philippines.


            Now, in the case of Showmie, her arrest showed there was no any documentary evidence.  


Court experience shows that under the single-judge system, documents are the only ones that have the chances of overturning the presumption of weight assumed for the police officers’ testimonies.


In other words, the trial under the single-judge system that relies on the rules of presumption of evidence, the trial is like a formality to comply with due process and yet the end is assured to be a conviction.


          This disadvantage being inherent in the “presumption of evidence” system led the advocates of Japan to demand the change of their criminal justice system to a trial to be adjudged by a jury. 
Symbol of People's (Jury) Justice system


So that jury system was born, again, in Japan in 2004.


            It is unlike in the jury system where a group of persons chosen from the community by a raffle or at random and interviewed further to determine who have average level of discernment, and further subjected to challenge by lawyers of both the accused and the State.


           If in the single-judge system the fate is pre-determined and only a process is observed for formality, the jury system provides an opportunity for the accused to ventilate his or her truth by the power of his or her testimonies to be adjudged by the jurors of people—not on the basis of the rule of presumption of the declarations of the police officers.


            Now, imagine the declarations of Showmie that she was not aware there were kilos of heroin inside the encylopedia books that were requested for her to bring to another woman. 


If she were aware, she could have not gone first to a Kentucky Fried Chicken chain in Bangkok just to eat.


In fact, she said she even volunteered to the approaching and inquiring police officers the plastic bag and the books to be opened for inspection.


Thereafter, she also volunteered to lead the policemen to her apartment where more kilos of heroine were found.


She insisted that it was a newly-found Nigerian friend who asked her for an errand to bring that bag.


If a person is aware that there is a heroine substance inside the bag he or she is bringing, will he or she still afford to gallivant with time in a risky place? No normal person will do it. Instead, she would not enter that restaurant and find a secure place.


The point here is, while it would be true that these kilos of heroine were really found inside that encyclopedia books, it is very apparent that she had no intention to possess, much less intention to sell.


Under the principle of the criminal law, the intent to commit a crime is important to be proven beyond reasonable doubt for one to be said as guilty of committing that crime.


In the case of possession of drugs, this is called in Latin as “animo possedendi.”


So let us hope that the Court of Appeals of Thailand will reverse Showmie’s conviction.
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