A veteran lawmaker has defended President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino from criticisms that he only acted at the last minute in trying to save Mary Jane Veloso from firing squad.
At the same time, Valenzuela City Congressman Win Gatchalian commended President Aquino for exerting all efforts that paved the way for the reprieve in the execution of Veloso which was originally scheduled today, Apr. 29.
Gatchalian issued the statement a few hours after eight of the Filipino domestic helper’s fellow convicted drug traffickers on death row were executed by firing squad midnight of Wednesday.
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“It is unfair for President Aquino to be pilloried by leftist groups since as early as 2011, PNoy appealed for clemency for Veloso after she was convicted for drug trafficking and given the death penalty by the Indonesian high court,” Gatchalian said.
Gatchalian, a member of Nationalist People’s Coalition or NPC that is allied with the ruling Liberal Party at the House of Representatives, pointed out that media reports have shown that when the Indonesian Supreme Court imposed the death sentence on Veloso in May 2011, President Aquino wrote then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, requesting clemency for the Filipina, who is also a victim of human trafficking.
But with the change of administration last year, President Joko Widodo embarked on a tougher campaign against drug trafficking and part of this is the immediate implementation of the death penalty on all convicted drug traffickers, including Veloso.
Until Tuesday, Indonesia remained firm in its decision to execute Veloso, who is among nine drug-trafficking convicts on Indonesian death row. Firing squad is the mode of execution in Indonesia.
The Indonesian government unexpectedly spared Veloso from execution at dawn on Wednesday. A spokesman for Indonesia’s Attorney General’s Office said it had delayed the execution of Veloso in response to a request from Manila after an employment recruiter, whom Veloso had accused of planting the drugs in her luggage, gave herself up to police in the Philippines on Tuesday.
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Veloso, now 30 years old, was sentenced to death after she was arrested in 2010 with 2.6 kilos of heroin then valued at $500,000. Veloso had told the Indonesian court that she didn’t know about the heroin sewn into the lining of her suitcase and was merely duped into carrying them to Indonesia from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Gatchalian said the government should learn from Veloso’s case to prevent a repeat of what happened to Mary Jane whose only ambition is to work abroad so she can provide a better life for her two children and immediate family in Nueva Ecija.
“This means that all government agencies that have a hand in the deployment of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) should now ensure that there will be no more Mary Jane Velosos,” said Gatchalian.
“The government should intensify its information and education campaign among Filipinos traveling and working overseas so that they may not be victimized by drug dealers who are always looking for mules who will unwittingly transport illegal drugs,” concluded Gatchalian. (R. Burgos)