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Leniency urged for Filipino lawmaker in drug case

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HONG KONG » A Philippine congressman planned to use, not sell, the cocaine he carried into Hong Kong last year and should receive a lesser sentence than life in prison, his lawyer argued in court Friday.

Under Hong Kong law, bringing drugs into the territory can be defined as trafficking, regardless of the purpose. The maximum penalty is life imprisonment and a fine of 5 million Hong Kong dollars ($640,000).

Philippine Rep. Ronald Singson admitted to the trafficking charge last month, but District Court Judge Joseph Yau wanted to hear arguments on intent before deciding on a sentence.

He was caught carrying 0.24 ounces (6.67 grams) of cocaine at the southern Chinese city’s international airport in July.

Singson’s lawyer, John Reading, argued the drugs were for personal consumption, citing testimony that his client is a heavy drug user and no packaging material was found when the drugs were seized. He added Singson, a businessman by trade, is independently wealthy and didn’t need to sell drugs to earn money.

The prosecution was scheduled to speak later Friday. It wasn’t clear when Yau would hand down the sentence.

Singson, 42, previously testified he used cocaine on and off since 2004 and amphetamines in his 20s. He said he went on a cocaine-and-gambling binge after attending an Usher concert in Manila and arguing with his girlfriend. He was arrested en route to a poker tournament in Macau.

Singson, who is on bail, added he was undergoing rehabilitation for his drug addiction.

Singson is the son of Luis "Chavit" Singson, a provincial governor in the Philippines whose testimony in the corruption trial of his former friend, ex-President Joseph Estrada, helped convict the ousted leader in 2007 and secure a life prison term. Estrada was later pardoned.

 

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