Marcos hopeful of clemency for Veloso

Helen Flores, Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Marcos hopeful of clemency for Veloso
A protester holds a placard bearing the image of Mary Jane Veloso during a rally in Mendiola, Manila yesterday.
Ernie Peñaredondo

MANILA, Philippines — President Marcos remains hopeful that Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina on death row for the past 14 years, will be granted clemency by the Indonesian government, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

During Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s official visit here, it was learned that the legal interrogatories required from the Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Court on the case of Veloso have been sent to Jakarta for her to answer as part of her testimony on the case she filed against her illegal recruiters.

“President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. expressed hope that the progression of the case of Ms. Veloso will merit her clemency at the appropriate time,” DFA Undersecretary Ma. Theresa Lazaro said in a statement released by the Presidential Communications Office yesterday.

Marcos and Widodo meanwhile affirmed the need to uphold international law and to maintain stability in the region during their bilateral meeting yesterday.

The two leaders tackled the longstanding maritime dispute in the South China Sea and possible procurement of Indonesia-made anti-submarine aircraft for the Philippine Navy.

Widodo met with Marcos in Malacañang as part of his three-day official visit to the Philippines, which came as Manila and Jakarta are preparing to celebrate the 75th anniversary of their diplomatic ties this year.

The meeting took place as tensions surround the West Philippine Sea – the area in the South China Sea inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf – because of China’s increasingly aggressive actions to assert its claims.

The family of Mary Jane Veloso appealed anew to the governments of the Philippines and Indonesia to spare her from the death penalty and free her.

In a handwritten letter written entirely in Filipino, Mary Jane’s mother Celia asked President Widodo, currently visiting the country, to grant clemency for her daughter.

“Labing-apat na taon na po na naghirap nagdusa na walang kasalanan,” she wrote.

She maintained a possible clemency from Widodo for Veloso would be a birthday gift for her daughter.

She also stressed Mary Jane’s recruiters Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao have been convicted.

Celia also wrote a letter to President Marcos, who she said is the third president she appealed for help, to lobby for Mary Jane’s release.

Aside from Celia, her husband Cesar and Mary Jane’s two sons also signed her letter for Marcos. The letter was delivered through Migrante International that held a rally at Mendiola yesterday.

Fruitful discussion

“President Widodo and I had a fruitful and honest discussion on regional events of mutual interest such as the developments in the South China Sea and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) cooperation and initiatives,” Marcos said at a joint press briefing after their meeting.

“The Philippines and Indonesia affirmed our insistence on the universality of UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), which sets out the legal framework that governs all activities in the oceans and in the seas,” he added.

Widodo said he and Marcos agreed that ASEAN, of which the Philippines and Indonesia are founding members, should “continue to uphold the principles of international law and become a positive force for peace, stability and prosperity.”

“We agreed on strengthening ASEAN unity and centrality that is not merely a jargon,” the Indonesian leader added.

During the bilateral meeting, Widodo sought Marcos’ support for the purchase of anti-submarine warfare aircraft. ?Widodo did not provide details of the air assets Indonesia is offering the Philippines. There was no mention of the military equipment in Marcos’ public statements yesterday.

Last month, the Philippine government reported that Chinese coast guard and maritime militia vessels had “harassed, blocked and executed dangerous maneuvers” on Filipino civilian supply boats to “illegally” prevent them from providing supplies to Philippine Navy troops stationed at the Ayungin Shoal.

The Philippines had slammed China for resorting to a water cannon attack and ramming to block the resupply mission bound for the shoal, which is within Manila’s EEZ and continental shelf. – Richmond Mercurio, Ghio Ong

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