‘No green light for Veloso death’
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - September 13, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Jakarta should “follow its law” in dealing with Filipina migrant worker Mary Jane Veloso and Manila will not interfere, President Duterte told his Indonesian counterpart Joko Widodo.

Indonesian law imposes capital punishment for drug trafficking. Veloso is on death row for smuggling 2.6 kilos of heroin to Yogyakarta from Malaysia in April 2010.

Did Duterte give Indonesia the green light for Veloso’s execution?

Not quite, Malacañang and Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. insisted yesterday.

What Duterte told Widodo last week in Jakarta, according to presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, was: “Follow your own laws. I will not interfere.”

Abella stressed that Duterte did not agree to Veloso’s execution: “There was no endorsement.”

Asked if Duterte appealed for clemency for Veloso, Abella replied, “We are not privy to that. They will proceed with their own laws.”

Yasay, for his part, stressed that Veloso’s execution has been deferred indefinitely.

The Indonesian Attorney General’s Office approved the indefinite deferment last April while waiting for the conclusion of criminal proceedings initiated against Veloso’s Filipino recruiters.

In pleading for a stay of Veloso’s execution, the Aquino administration had argued that she was unwitting victim of the illegal recruiters working in cahoots with an international drug trafficking ring. Jakarta agreed to wait for the resolution of the case filed in the Philippines before deciding Veloso’s fate.

Duterte, who has launched a brutal war on drugs since assuming power, with nearly 3,000 drug suspects killed so far by police and vigilantes, has maintained he would bow to Indonesian laws in the case of Veloso.

Reporting on his meeting with Widodo, a news item in the Jakarta Post was headlined, “Duterte has given green light for Mary Jane’s execution.”?According to Abella, Duterte did not mention giving a green light on the execution. But the President apparently expressed that he is respecting the laws of Indonesia regarding drug-related cases.

Widodo and Duterte met in Jakarta last week where they vowed to increase bilateral cooperation in fighting drugs, terrorism, piracy and other problems.

Upon his arrival in Manila last Saturday from Jakarta and the ASEAN summit in Laos, Duterte refused to talk about the details of his talks with Widodo regarding Veloso’s case.

Duterte has forged ahead with his relentless war on drugs, ignoring international statements of concern on human rights issued by the United Nations and United States.

Indonesia, for its part, sees its drug menace as a “narcotics emergency.” The government has resumed execution of drug convicts after a long hiatus.

Vice President Leni Robredo urged the government yesterday to continue to do its best to save Veloso, 31, from execution.

“A year ago, the Filipino nation came together in prayer and unity to appeal to the Indonesian government to spare Mary Jane’s life. Our prayers were answered when she was given a reprieve, and as one nation, we rejoiced,” Robredo said.

She said Veloso case “is emblematic of the hardships faced by millions of our (overseas Filipino workers). We must keep her welfare in mind, along with the welfare of all OFWs as they remain under government’s protection and support despite working overseas.”

Palace rebuffs experts

As this developed, the Palace also took exception to the statements of experts who warned that the government’s hardline approach to fighting the drug menace would make matters worse.

 “The government response has been two-pronged, (considering the problem) both as a national security concern and a public health issue,” Abella said in a separate statement.

Abella reiterated that the drug war has been a “success,” with up to 90 percent of the supply of illegal drugs nationwide stopped.

“In fact, the initial efforts at confronting the drug menace has successfully raised awareness of public consciousness of the massive problem,” he said.

“The approximately 700,000 users who turned themselves in has triggered a concerted outpouring of public concern – massive contributions from here and abroad, local government efforts, faith-based interventions and small group initiatives,” Abella added.

Abella said the government is now focusing on efforts to rehabilitate drug dependents and improve job opportunities for the poor to prevent them from being vulnerable to drug activities.

“This is now part of the second phase of the government response, including swift disposition of justice, holistic rehabilitation, and reduction of poverty by providing more jobs and income opportunity,” he added.

“The administration is aware of what ‘experts’ have to say and appreciate such, but given the uniqueness of every situation, we have taken the initiative to shift the downward spiral of the nation towards more pacific shores on our own terms and parameters. And it is apparently working,” Abella said. – With Pia Lee-Brago, Helen Flores

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