MABALACAT CITY --- Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has joined calls for the government to exert all efforts to save Filipino death row inmate Mary Jane Veloso after the Court of Appeals (CA) barred the latter’s testimony on illegal recruitment to be heard in court.
De Lima, a known human rights defender, called on Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello to heed Veloso’s incessant appeal for government’s help and allow her testify in the case against her recruiters so that she can prove her innocence in court.
“I hope that Secretary Bello would take a second hard look at Mary Jane Veloso’s plea and allow her to prove her innocence. Nothing is more tragic than an innocent person who is wrongfully accused of a crime she did not commit,” she said.
“While I respect the independence of the court, all efforts must be exhausted to save the life of another overseas Filipino. Muli po nating pakinggan ang panawagang ito ni Mary Jane Veloso, lalo pa’t nakasalalay dito ang kanyang buhay,” she added.
The CA recently affirmed the injunction on Veloso's testimony, barring the Filipina from testifying against her recruiters, Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, who purportedly tricked her into smuggling illegal drugs to Indonesia in 2010.
In its 18-page decision, the court reversed the ruling of Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Court Judge Anarica Castillo-Reyes which allowed Veloso to testify against Sergio and Lacanialo for illegal recruitment, estafa, and human trafficking charges.
Last January 10, in a recorded message from her detention, Veloso asked for Duterte’s help, saying, “Pangulong Duterte, buong puso po akong humihingi ng tulong sa inyo para payagan akong magtestigo sa kaso ni Cristina Sergio doon sa Pilipinas para maibunyag ang katotohanan at maparusahan ang taong talagang may kasalanan.”
De Lima maintained Duterte’s policies on punishing drug traffickers should not dominate his administration’s foreign policy, lamenting how the President can easily throw away previous efforts by the Aquino administration to save the life of Veloso.
“Sa panahon namin noon sa administrasyong Aquino, ginawa namin ang lahat ng aming makakaya upang mapigil ang parusang kamatayan kay Mary Jane. Nakakalungkot lang na ang lahat ng aming mga pagsisikap ay nababalewala lamang dahil walang pagpapahalaga sa buhay ang ating Pangulo,” she said.
During her term as justice secretary, De Lima shared they provided the Indonesian government the legal basis to hold the execution in abeyance using the mutual cooperation treaty between the Philippines and Indonesia on the prosecution of crimes.
Likewise, she said that the Philippines was successful in holding off Veloso's execution by apprehending her recruiters.
While Duterte had no categorical statement telling Widodo to push through with the execution of veloso in their meeting last September 2017, then presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella quoted Duterte as telling Widodo during a news briefing that he “will not interfere.”
Veloso was convicted for carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin at the Yogyakarta Airport in 2010. She was supposed to be executed in April 2015, but she was granted a last-minute reprieve.
Published in the SunStar Pampanga newspaper on January 14, 2018.
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