PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd on Sunday said he will make a personal appeal to Indonesian President Joko Widodo to spare the life of Filipina Mary Jane Veloso, who has been condemned to die by firing squad for drug trafficking.
Veloso has refused to sign the Notice of Execution, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.
Her execution has been set for Tuesday, April 28, reports said.
In a text message, Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said Veloso’s lawyers and a Philippine Embassy representative also did not sign the Notice of Execution because there is still a pending second appeal for judicial review.
In his departure speech before flying to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for the 26th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit, Aquino vowed to make a last-ditch effort to save the life of Veloso.
“We will take the opportunity to continue our efforts to help Mary Jane Veloso. There, we will speak with President Widodo to again appeal her case,” the President said in the vernacular.
Earlier, Aquino sought clemency for the death convict, a single mother to two young boys.
The Philippine government, through the President, had sent three letters to the Indonesian government in a bid to save the Filipina.
The first letter was sent in 2011 to then-Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the second letter, which was sent to President Widodo, sought a judicial review while the third letter is his first clemency appeal under the new Indonesian government.
“We assure our fellow Filipinos in and out of the country that we are doing everything we can to lessen and respond to the problems we are facing now,” Aquino said.
Veloso, 30, was among several foreign prisoners, including two Australians, who were sentenced to die this year in Indonesia by firing squad on drug-related charges.
Arrested at Yogyakarta Airport on April 25, 2010, she claimed she was tricked by a close friend into bringing a suitcase loaded with 2.6 kilograms of heroin.
Seeking stronger ties
Meanwhile, Aquino will attend the Asean summit to be held in the Malaysian capital and Langkawi province, where he also vowed to pursue consensus on issues that will strengthen the member-nations’ relations.
“Included in the agenda are initiatives to improve trade and people-to-people relations, our response to climate change and ensuring stability in the region. We will stress the importance of peace and order to foment development. Any dispute may be settled amicably in a peaceful manner,” the President said.
“We believe that one of the pillars that would pave our way is in what we call Asean centrality. Instead of working alone, unity will be the key to achieve our goals for the good of all. Clearly, the legitimate problem of one, is the problem of all,” Aquino pointed out.
After the summit, the President and his delegation will join the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area or BIMP-EAGA Summit to discuss lasting peace in the Philippines’ southern Mindanao region.
Also joining the nation in trying to save Veloso from the firing squad was Vice President Jejomar Binay.
‘Let’s not lose hope’
Filipinos should not lose hope that the woman will be spared from the death penalty in Indonesia, Binay said also on Sunday.
The Presidential Adviser on OFW Concerns was reacting to reports of the impending execution of Veloso, supposedly scheduled for April 28.
“We have a second petition filed before the Indonesian Supreme Court. The Indonesian authorities I spoke to told me that if there is such a petition, it will be tackled before any execution,” Binay said.
The Vice President added that he wrote a separate letter addressed to Widodo before he left the Asian-African Summit in Bandung last Friday and asked a senior official to personally deliver it to the Indonesian president.
“Let us not lose hope. We will continue to use all the avenues available to us. We have a second appeal for a judicial review and we have the personal appeals sent by President Aquino and myself to President Widodo and my appeal to Vice President Jusuf Kalla. Let us continue to pray for Mary Jane,” he said.
Binay met with Veloso’s family while in Indonesia, speaking with the family for an hour last Thursday at the hostel where they were staying.
Members of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers representing the Filipina’s family were also present during the meeting.
Anti-crime advocates also on Sunday said Malacañang and its legal team should be blamed if Veloso’s execution pushed though.
Dante Jimenez, founding chairman of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, also on Sunday criticized the Aquino Administration for its failure to act on the Veloso case much earlier.
“Unfortunately, our government has been used to last-minute diplomatic solutions,” Jimenez said.
When Veloso refused to sign the Notice of Execution, she was presented a letter indicating such refusal.
She, her lawyers and the embassy representative signed the document.
Reiterating her innocence
On Saturday, during the visit of the Veloso family, Mary Jane gave four letters to DFA officials addressed to President Aquino, Vice President, the Filipino youth and women and to those responsible for what happened to her.
She reiterated her innocence and said only Aquino and Binay can help her.
She, however, thanked the President for doing all he can to spare her life.
Veloso hoped in her letters that justice will prevail over what happened to her, and those responsible for the crime will be bothered by their conscience.
In the end, she asked young Filipinos never to get involved in drugs and for Filipino women who want to work abroad to follow the legal procedure and seek assistance from legitimate recruitment agencies.
Veloso then thanked the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Philippine Embassy in Jakarta, her lawyers, the Filipinos and even non-Filipinos who continue to pray for her.
WITH JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA AND BERNICE CAMILLE V. BAUZON