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Rody: No apologies for stand on Veloso

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – President Duterte will not apologize for his stance on the case of Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina drug convict on death row in Indonesia.

“I’m sorry. I have nothing to apologize for because you know, the law is the law,” he said yesterday.

Palace officials said there is no need yet to seek executive clemency for Veloso because her execution has been deferred indefinitely.

Duterte said asking Indonesian President Joko Widodo to grant Veloso clemency would have left a “bad taste in the mouth.”

“I said: ‘we will respect the judgment of your courts.’ Period. It would have been a bad taste in the mouth to be talking about having a strong posture against drugs and here you are, begging for something,” the President said during the 48th anniversary celebration of the 250th Presidential Airlift Wing in Villamor Air Base yesterday.

“I said: ‘it’s good that you have death penalty here. At least you can bring it down to the barest minimum.’ I said: ‘go ahead and implement the law.’ I never, we never mentioned Veloso,” he added.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Veloso’s execution had been deferred even before the Duterte-Widodo meeting last week.

“There is no need to plea for clemency as there was no scheduled execution,” Abella told journalists in a press briefing.

“If and when the Indonesian Supreme Court decides to act on the execution, that will be the time to present (evidence proving) Veloso’s innocence as a justification for a plea of clemency,” he added.

Abella said that contrary to reports by Indonesian media, Duterte did not give Widodo the go-signal to proceed with Veloso’s execution.

Asked whether he thinks Duterte’s statements had been misinterpreted, he said: “I’m not saying it was misinterpreted, but that’s how they translated it in English.”

In an interview last Monday, the Palace official said Duterte had told Widodo to follow their law and that he would not interfere with Indonesia’s legal process.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay said the proper time to seek clemency for Veloso is when she is proven in Philippine courts that she was just a victim.

Yasay said the President did not ask for clemency, as it was “not the proper time.” He clarified that Duterte has not given the so-called “green light” for Veloso’s execution, contrary to reports published by the Jakarta Post.

Veloso was arrested at the Yogyakarta airport in 2010 after authorities found 2.6 kilos of heroin in her luggage.

She was supposed to have been executed by firing squad in April 2015, but was given a temporary reprieve after her recruiter – Maria Cristina Sergio – surrendered to Philippine authorities.

The 31-year-old from Cabanatuan City had denied being a drug mule and claimed a syndicate tricked her into bringing the illegal drugs to Indonesia from Malaysia when she was desperately seeking a job.

Seeking meeting

Veloso’s family and their supporters yesterday sought a meeting with Duterte to find out the truth about her case.

Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairman, said the family wanted to hear it straight from the President about what really transpired in Indonesia.

“While we welcome clarifications by Secretaries Abella and Yasay, we think it is no less than the President who should clarify and assure the country that the government is doing everything to save Mary Jane and to bring her back home,” Martinez said in a statement.

“We hope our President would talk to us and the public directly. We raise this appeal on behalf of Mary Jane’s kids and other families of distressed OFWs,” he added.

Members of Migrante International gathered in front of the Philippine Christian University to call for Veloso’s release from prison.

Martinez said they were trying to contact people who could help them set a meeting with Duterte.

The OFW group has expressed surprise over reports that Duterte gave the go-signal for Veloso’s execution. – Alexis Romero, Paolo Romero, Delon Porcalla, Evelyn Macairan, Mayen Jaymalin, Pia Lee-Brago

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