Four Hong Kong men jailed in Philippines to apply to have same judge review their case, but supporters say intervention by Chinese and Hong Kong governments would be more effective
- Lawmaker James To says he does not have much hope Roline Ginez-Jabalde would reverse her decision and called on the central and Hong Kong governments to intervene
- Main area of contention for the jailed men’s families is the failure of Philippine police to find any drugs in the men’s bags when they were initially searched
The four Hong Kong men jailed for life in the Philippines on drug charges will apply to have the same judge review their case, a process that could take six months, the Hong Kong lawmaker assisting them said on Thursday.
But the lawmaker, James To Kun-sun of the Democratic Party, was frank that he did not have much hope the judge, Roline Ginez-Jabalde, would reverse her decision. If the review failed, the four would then appeal and take their case to a higher court, which could take another two years.
The best chance for the four men to walk free of the maximum-security New Bilibid Prison is for the Hong Kong and central governments to intervene and tell the Philippine government of the suspicion that Philippine police did not find any drugs during an initial search of the four men’s bags, To said.
A bag containing 467.8 grams of methamphetamine was only found in one of the convicted men’s bag in the second search, after the bag was taken out of their sight briefly during the raid by the Philippine police on board the fishing boat on which they were asked to sail, on July 11, 2016.
“To be honest, if our government and the central government do not express their concern to the highest level of the Philippine government, and if we are to rely only on the judicial system of the Philippines, I don’t have much hope in the coming review,” To said.
He called on Hong Kong’ s leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Chinese officials to watch the videos of the raid that took place two years ago on board the boat the four men were on, and tell the Philippine authorities that it was suspicious how drugs were only found in a bag in the second search.
If Lam and Chinese officials were willing to do so, To believed it may pressure the Philippine government to launch an investigation into how the raid was conducted two years ago.
If President Rodrigo Duterte indeed orders such an investigation, To hoped the Philippine authorities might withdraw the charges against the four men, if that was allowed under Philippine law.
“(Duterte) can do whatever is within the law to reverse the verdict,” To said.
Lo Wing-fai, 44, Chan Kwok-tung, 31, Kwok Kam-wah, 49, and Leung Shu-fook, 51, were sentenced this month to life in jail for possession of drugs.
The four were arrested on a boat in Subic Bay. They had accepted a job to sail a boat, impounded for fishing violations earlier, from the Southeast Asian country to mainland China.
To their surprise, then Philippine police chief Ronald dela Rosa – now running for senate – led a team, together with reporters, to board the boat and had them arrested.
Officers took out everything inside the four men’s bags but could not find any drugs, according to video footage presented to the court. The men were then taken briefly to a room with no light. When they were escorted out, police asked them to open their bags again. There was a brown bag containing drugs in Leung’s bag.
Lawmaker To said the four men’s families have requested a meeting with Lam, who responded by saying that she has already instructed the Immigration Department and the Security Bureau to follow up for now.
“It is important for Lam to meet the families. The request for this meeting was made by the four men,” he said. “If this meeting is to take place, it would be an encouragement to (the four men and their families).”
The family has spent about HK$1 million on legal fees so far. They have launched a crowdfunding campaign and hope to raise HK$3 million. So far, they have only raised about HK$223,000.