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Critics blame Aquino for Mary Jane’s fate

CRITICS blamed President Benigno Aquino III Tuesday for the fate of Filipino maid Mary Jane Veloso, who was scheduled for execution by firing squad in Indonesia at midnight.

“The welfare of the masses, including Mary Jane’s, is not in Aquino’s vocabulary. Her case began long ago but due to the Aquino government’s negligence, a death sentence, which could have been avoided, was issued,” said Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap.

Countdown. Employees of the Philippine Senate join their fellow Filipinos’ appeal
to stop the execution of Mary Jane Veloso in Indonesia, which appeared unlikely
late on Tuesday as the countdown to her execution by firing squad began. Lino Santos
Hicap said President Aquino should have taken advantage of the state visit in February by Indonesian President Joko Widodo to discuss Veloso’s fate.

But Aquino “seemed relaxed and [was] all praises for the Indonesian government, and even boasted [about] the agreement of cooperation in combatting illegal drugs,” Hicap said.

Veloso, now 30, was sentenced to death after she was arrested in 2009 with 2.6 kilos of heroin sewn into the lining of her suitcase. She said she didn’t know about the drugs and was duped into carrying them into Indonesia.

Hicap said Veloso’s Indonesian lawyers from Rudyantho & Partners had complained about the negligence of the Philippine government.

The same charge was made by Migrante International, an advocacy group working for the protection of the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers, Hicap added.

As hopes for an Indonesian reprieve dimmed, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares urged boxing champion and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao to return to Congress right after his fight in Las Vegas on May 2, so that he could attend to the congressional probe of the Veloso case as acting chairman of the House committee on overseas workers affairs.

Pacquiao is the vice chairman of the committee, which was headed by Rep. Walden Bello, who gave up his congressional seat in March 2015.

The women’s group Gabriela also tore into President Aquino, saying his five-minute effort to convince Widodo to overturn the Indonesian court’s death sentence was too little, too late.

“For five years, the Aquino government dilly-dallied in the case and Aquino thought that a five-minute chat with Widodo could undo the Indonesian court’s decision. If that is the best that Aquino can do, then all other OFWs on death row are practically doomed to their death by this government,” said Joms Salvador, Gabriela’s secretary general.

Salvador also demanded that the Foreign Affairs Department act more urgently on the cases of 77 other Filipino workers on death row in different countries.

“Apparently, since the DFA came up with such a list, it is knowledgeable about these cases. It should reveal the names on the list and issue a public accounting of what the DFA has done for each case,” she said.

Quoting Migrante, she said another woman, Rose Dacanay, was wrongly accused of murdering her employer and is now a candidate for death row in Saudi Arabia.

“The DFA is well-informed about her case and must not wait until the final [days] to help her,” she said.

Salvador also aid Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario should resign because he failed to respond promptly to the cases of Filipinos on death row.

“Our OFWs deserve better, especially since they are practically saving our economy from collapse with their billions of pesos in remittances,” Salvador said. “Del Rosario’s and the DFA’s incompetence in aiding OFWs, particularly those on death row, has already cost a lot of lives. They don’t deserve to stay in government much as Aquino does not deserve to stay in power.”

Earlier, DFA spokesman Charles Jose admitted there were 77 Filipino workers on death row, about half of whom were jailed for illegal drugs.

Most facing the death penalty are in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, China, the United States, Vietnam, Kuwait and Thailand.

Since 2010, seven Filipinos have been executed, most of them in China, the DFA said.

Migrante said that unless the Aquino government acts immediately, these Filipinos facing execution will also be killed.

The DFA, said they are aware of all of these cases and is closely monitoring them through its embassies and consulates.

The latest Filipino to be executed was Carlito Lana, who was beheaded in Saudi Arabia in December 2014 after being found guilty of shooting Saudi national Nasser Al-Gahtani before running him over with a car.

In 2013, a 35-year-old Filipino woman was executed in China for carrying six kilos of heroin.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said President Aquino was saddened by Indonesia’s decision to push through with Veloso’s execution.

Aquino personally appealed Veloso’s case to Widodo when they met Monday morning at the sidelines of the 26th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Kuala Lumpur.

During the meeting, Aquino asked for “humanitarian consideration” for the 30-year-old Filipina, who was apparently duped into being an unwitting carrier of illegal drugs by her recruiter.

Coloma said Aquino was of the impression that his Indonesian counterpart was sympathetic to Veloso’s plight and that he would consult their attorney general on the legal issues of her case.

The attorney general, however, found no basis to reconsider the death sentence, which was to be meted out at midnight Tuesday.

“The President was saddened upon learning of the feedback from Jakarta on this morning’s meeting. He has instructed the Philippine ambassador in Indonesia to communicate with Mary Jane and find out what may be done to address her concerns for her family,” he added.

Coloma fended off criticism that the government moved too late.

 “When the Indonesian Supreme Court imposed the death sentence in May 2011, President Aquino wrote then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono requesting clemency for Ms. Veloso, thereby securing a deferral of the implementation of the sentence for three years,” Coloma said.

Del Rosario even went to Indonesia to meet with Veloso and some Indonesian officials, he added.

Vice President Jejomar Binay also conveyed a letter of appeal from the President through his Indonesian counterpart.

In a press briefing in Malaysia, Aquino said he told Indonesian officials it would serve the interests of both countries to keep Veloso alive so that she could testify against those who duped her into transporting the drugs into Indonesia.

 “She does present an opportunity right now to be able to uncover all the participants and start the process of bringing them to the bars of justice. Absent her, that becomes very difficult,” Aquino said.

Veloso, 30, a mother of two, was arrested in 2010 at the Yogyakarta International Airport with 2.6 kilograms of heroin.

Despite repeated pleas from Manila, however, Indonesia has stood firm on its decision to execute Veloso and eight other foreigners also convicted on drug charges.

Veloso and the others were transferred to Indonesia’s execution island on Friday.

The DFA said Consul General Robert Manalo would be present during the execution.

Arrangements will also be made for the repatriation of Veloso’s remains to the Philippines, the DFA said.

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