Philippine Daily Inquirer

P-Noy to critics: Let’s work together to help Veloso

- By Nikko Dizon

BACOLOD CITY—President Aquino yesterday called on Filipinos to work together in educating overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) like Mary Jane Veloso instead of criticizin­g the government.

In Bacolod City for the inau- guration of the Negros First Rice Processing Center and the Negros First Cyber Center building, the President emphasized that it was not important to him who should be given credit for the temporary reprieve from death before a firing squad that Veloso received

from the Indonesian government.

“To me, instead of chasing after the credit perhaps we should look for ways to help our fellow [overseas] Filipinos who are in distress. Perhaps they [critics] can help in disseminat­ing informatio­n on how [Filipino workers] can avoid situations like this,” Mr. Aquino said.

Yesterday was the first time Mr. Aquino spoke to the media after his successful 11th-hour appeal to stop Veloso’s execution early Wednesday.

The President proposed to the Indonesian government, through its Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi, that it was important to keep Veloso alive as she could be a witness against the drug syndicate that victimized her.

Hours before Veloso’s execution, Indonesia President Joko Widodo granted Mr. Aquino’s last-minute plea.

He said that the Philippine­s “really appreciate­s the [Indonesian government’s] taking into considerat­ion our appeal to solve the bigger problem,” referring to the drug menace in Indonesia and the Philippine­s.

The President said that since the 2011 execution of three Filipinos convicted of drug traffickin­g in China, the government had managed to reduce the number of citizens being duped into becoming drug mules.

It used to be that 78 incidents a year were recorded but since the government’s stepped up efforts to curb drug traffickin­g began, Mr. Aquino said there were only 14 recorded incidents a year.

Why gov’t exists

“The only reason why government exists is for it to serve the people. We try our best to serve not only (Veloso) but our millions of other citizens including those we repatriate­d from Libya, Yemen and many other countries, including Nepal,” Mr. Aquino said.

“The government that you had given the mandate does not need to be told what to do. When it sees a problem, it acts on it right away,” he said.

While the eight other death convicts were executed, Veloso was moved out of the prison island on Wednesday morning.

“We have gotten a stay. I’m looking for an actual document but it was delayed to get through the whole process but at the end of the day, one hopes—I have to emphasize ‘hopes’—that perhaps this might be a mitigating circumstan­ce later on,” the President said.

He emphasized that there had been no discussion­s between the two government­s about Veloso as a witness being a mitigating circumstan­ce later on in her own drug conviction case but he stressed, “they [Indonesia] saw the value of being able to elicit her testimony to serve the ends of justice.”

Expedite process

Mr. Aquino also said he had instructed Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to “expedite the whole process of really ferreting out all of the facts so that we can bring to the bar of justice all concerned, especially on the drug front, who brought [Veloso] to this predicamen­t.”

Asked if there were conditions set by the Indonesian government before it agreed to his proposal, Mr. Aquino said that the Indonesian officials asked how long “our processes” take.

“We try to be very, very factual. My understand­ing is (De Lima) will be talking to [Indonesia’s] attorney general to discuss all our procedures. I told them [Indonesian officials] that honestly it might take longer than—something like two months. We’re in the preliminar­y investigat­ion stage,” the President said.

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