DFA hits Velosos’ claims: We helped Mary Jane

Paterno Esmaquel II
DFA hits Velosos’ claims: We helped Mary Jane
'We did what we could. We were not involved in the creation of the problem,' Philippine President Benigno Aquino III says

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday evening, May 1, disputed the claims of Mary Jane Veloso’s family that the 30-year-old Filipino worker got help from the people, not the government. 

“The Philippine government has and continues to extend its assistance to Mary Jane Veloso and her family. We have already gone on record on this,” DFA spokesman Charles Jose said in a text message. 

Jose enumerated the government’s moves to help Veloso, which include:

  • Providing legal assistance
  • Appealing her case before the highest levels of the Indonesian government 
  • Coordinating prison visits of Mary Jane’s family
  • Covering their cost of travel

He added that the government is “committed to pursuing the complaints” against Veloso’s alleged illegal recruiter, Maria Kristina Sergio. He said filing these complaints “was vital in securing” a reprieve for Veloso. (READ: Aquino: Fast-track case vs Mary Jane’s recruiter)

“We believe that focusing on this most important objective will help Mary Jane more at this time,” he said. 

Convicted for drug smuggling, Veloso was supposed to be executed Wednesday, April 29.

The Indonesian government delayed her execution because Philippine President Benigno Aquino III made a “last-minute plea,” while Filipino and Indonesian activists protested against the death penalty. 

The DFA released this statement after Veloso’s family, which returned to the Philippines from Indonesia on Friday, refused to credit the Philippine government for the “miracle” that saved Veloso.

Veloso family: ‘They gave up’

Sumuko na sila. Taumbayan ang nakatulong,” Veloso’s sister Darling said. (They gave up. It was the people who helped us.)

Veloso’s mother, Celia, said the government deceived them by making it appear they helped get a reprieve for her daughter. “Ngayon na nandito na kami sa Pilipinas ay marami kaming sisingilin sa gobyerno,” she said. (Now that we’re here in the Philippines, we have a lot to hold the government accountable for.)

Instead, the Velosos thanked the militant group Migrante, which has consistently attacked the Philippine government. 

The Veloso’s comments contradicted a statement by Philippine Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras on Wednesday. Almendras said last-minute efforts by the Philippine government – including Aquino’s fruitful breach in diplomatic protocol – helped save Veloso.

Their remarks also went against statements from the Indonesian government itself. 

Indonesian Attorney General HM Prasetyo, for one, said Veloso’s execution was delayed “because there was a last-minute plea from the Philippine president.”

In another statement, Indonesia’s Cabinet Secretariat said: “The decision to delay the execution was taken by the President after receiving reports about an ongoing legal process in the Philippines. Because the legal process is still ongoing in the Philippines, we must ensure Mary Jane Veloso deserves justice.”

The Cabinet Secretariat also pointed out that Indonesian President Joko Widodo “listens and pays attention to human rights activists.” (READ: How Indonesian activists helped change Jokowi’s mind on Mary Jane)

Sought for a reaction to the Velosos’ statements, Aquino said he “didn’t hear it from them” so he couldn’t make a comment yet.

He explained however: “We did what we could‎. We were not involved in the creation of the problem.”

Aquino stressed that the government will pursue the case against Veloso’s alleged recruiters, as well as the syndicate reportedly behind them.

“We might be able to capture them or other members of the syndicate. And if Mary Jane becomes very very helpful‎ in the process, well that might be a basis for extending some clemency,” the President said. –Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.