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Pinoy sentenced to death in Qatar for espionage, economic sabotage

(Updated 3:33 p.m.) A Filipino was sentenced to death last April 30 by a Qatari court for espionage and economic sabotage, while two other Philippine nationals were meted life imprisonment for the same offense, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Friday.

At a press briefing in Manila, Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said a lawyer assisted the Filipinos throughout the lower court proceedings and the verdict was appealed before Qatar’s court of appeals last May 4.

“Our embassy will continue to extend assistance to them as long as necessary,” Jose said, without identifying the Filipinos involved.

The one sentenced to death was an employee of a state-owned company while the two others were technicians in a military base, he said.          

The DFA said a total of 78 Filipinos are facing death in various countries, mostly for drug trafficking in China and for committing major offenses punishable by death in the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia. 

Jose did not provide further details on the Filipinos, but a report published by Qatar-based Doha News said the three men were found guilty by the court for passing along military and economic secrets to the Philippine government.

“One man, reported to be a lieutenant in the Philippines state security force working as a budgeting and contracting supervisor at large state-owned Qatari company, received the death penalty late last month, while the other two men – technicians working with the Qatar Air Force – were given life sentences in prison,” the news report said.

Leaked info

The Doha News said the three were charged of providing information “to intelligence officials in the Philippines about Qatar’s aircrafts, weaponry, maintenance and servicing records, as well as specific details about the names, ranks and phone numbers of staff members.”

“Additionally, details about a major Qatari company’s investment projects and upcoming contracts are also alleged to have been leaked,” the report added.

The main defendant, the report said, allegedly received millions of riyals in exchange for spying services.

“He’s also alleged to have provided maps, internal reports and classified information about the Qatari Air Force base to Filipino officials, as well as recruiting the other two defendants, who worked in the engineering department of the first man’s company and were technicians at the air force base,” the report said.

Pinoy 'spies'

It was not the first time a Filipino was accused of espionage in a foreign country. In September 2005, former police colonel Michael Ray Aquino was arrested in the US for his unauthorized possession of US confidential documents.

Aquino, who fled to the US in 2001 after being implicated in the killings of Salvador "Bubby" Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito, pleaded guilty to charges of unauthorized possession of US documents and entered the guilty plea to the lower offense and avoid the heavier charge of espionage, which is punishable by life imprisonment.

In 2007, Aquino was sentenced to six years and four months in prison for his supposed role in an effort to use the information to undermine the then-Arroyo administration. He was originally indicted for conspiring with former FBI intelligence analyst Leandro Aragoncillo. Aquino was deported to the Philippines in 2009 and the murder case filed against him has since been dismissed. — KBK/RSJ, GMA News