THE family of Mary Jane Veloso, returning from Indonesia Friday, slammed the Aquino administration for grabbing the credit for saving her from execution on drug charges, saying it was an Indonesian workers group that convinced Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo to grant a stay of execution.
Veloso’s mother Celia, father Cesar, sisters Darling and Marites, brother Christopher, and sons Mark Daniel and Mark Darren arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport early Friday morning where they were welcomed by members of Migrante International and officers from the Foreign Affairs Department.
The father, Cesar, told reporters the DFA offered to take them back to Cabanatuan, but they declined and instead proceeded to the Migrante headquarters in Quezon City, where they have stayed since March to campaign to save Mary Jane from execution.
In a press conference, Veloso’s mother thanked the people for their prayers, and singled out an advocate group in Indonesia that helped save the life of her daughter.
Celia, 55, wearing a “Save Mary Jane” shirt, had harsh words for President Benigno Aquino III, who met with Widodo on the sidelines of a summit in Malaysia to appeal for a stay of execution or clemency.
“We’ve returned home to the Philippines for payback... This is not about money. The government owes us because they tricked us,” said Celia in Filipino. “They say they were the reason she was not executed. That is not true.”
In an apparent reference to Aquino, she said: “He is telling the whole world that he helped save my daughter’s life. That is not true. Get ready, we are here to charge you. We will fight you.”
Celia accused the DFA of hiding from them from the Indonesian media while they were waiting for word about their daughter’s fate.
“We wanted to talk to the media. We wanted to thank the president of Indonesia,” she said.
Celia said it was Anis Hidayah, executive director of Migrant Care Indonesia, who really saved their daughter when she met with Widodo, who asked her about Mary Jane’s case.
It was Hidayah who discussed the details of her case and appealed to Widodo to spare Mary Jane’s life, she added.
The family expressed hope that Indonesia would commute Mary Jane’s death sentence after her recruiter turned herself in to the authorities this week.
Widodo stayed Veloso’s execution after Aquino asked that she be made a witness against a human trafficking ring that duped her into smuggling drugs.
Veloso was caught with 2.6 kilograms of heroin at Yogyakarta airport five years ago. She claims the drugs were sewn into her suitcase lining without her knowledge.
Veloso’s sister, Marites Veloso-Laurente, said the Aquino administration failed to provide her with a capable interpreter during her trial.
“Had the government not been remiss, my sister would not have been in trouble,” she said.
Presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte denied the charge, saying that as early as 2011, Aquino asked then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for clemency.
Aquino also asked Widodo for clemency and a review of Veloso’s case twice, Valte said.
“The records will bear out the President’s actions very clearly... It is not an issue of who gets credit, but more importantly, Mary Jane was able to get a reprieve for her sentence,” she said.
Veloso’s alleged recruiter, Ma. Cristina Sergio, is under police custody after she sought protection citing death threats.
The Justice Department is studying whether a human trafficking and fraud complaint against her would merit filing in court.
“We owe it to the Indonesian government to undertake and complete the investigation as soon as possible,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said this week.
Depending on the outcome of the investigation, Jose said the Philippines may again seek clemency for Veloso.
Her sister thanked Widodo for the reprieve as she renewed an appeal for compassion.
“President Widodo, please study my sister’s case very carefully. Please keep an open mind and heart,” she said.
Marites Veloso said the family last saw Mary Jane at Yogyakarta prison on Thursday.
“There were lots of hugging and laughing. There was no trace of sadness or worry in Mary Jane’s face,” she said.
“We left prison with smiles on our faces because we know that we will see her again soon,” she said.
While Veloso was spared, seven other foreign drug convicts and an Indonesian were executed as Widodo defied global anger.
Among those executed were Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, ringleaders of the so-called “Bali Nine” drug ring, prompting Canberra to recall its ambassador from Jakarta.
In Cebu City to celebrate Labor Day, the President said his administration was not to blame for creating Veloso’s predicament.
“You must remember, she was arrested. If I am not mistaken, April 20, 2010,” said Aquino during an ambush interview.
Sought for his comment on the claims of Mary Jane’s mother, Aquino said he could not comment intelligently on something he did not hear. – With AFP
“I don’t know if this comment was said, whether or not that comment is in reference to what happened then... Unfortunately, I cannot comment intelligently on something that I was not a witness to,” Aquino said.
The President said he would look for a copy of the statement and the interview with Mary Jane’s mother.
He then refused to answer other questions about the Veloso family’s accusations, saying he had neither listened to, read an account of or seen the press conference.
In response to yet another question about the Veloso family, Aquino retorted: “Why don’t I throw it back to you? What more can the government do? You know, from the counsels that were provided, from the intercessions done through President Widodo, through the foreign ministers, through the attorney general, and bringing the entire family there also.”
Aquino then pointed out that drug trafficking, the charge Mary Jane was convicted of, was a very serious problem not only in Indonesia but also in the Philippines.
However, he said the government is continuously helping Mary Jane, saying the charges are ready to be filed against her recruiter, who will undergo a preliminary investigation.
He said the government would run after those who should be held accountable.
“We might be able to capture them or other members of the syndicate. And if Mary Jane becomes very, very helpful, in the process that might be a basis for extending clemency,” he added.
Tony Spontana, a spokesman for the Indonesia’s attorney general, said Mary Jane’s execution was postponed upon request from the Aquino, who informed them that her recruiter had yielded to Philippine authorities and that Veloso would be needed to testify against her. – With AFP
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