SAN FRANCISCO – President Benigno Aquino III was in Malaysia for the ASEAN summit on the eve of Mary Jane Veloso’s supposed execution.
It was there that Aquino personally spoke with Indonesian President Joko Widodo. He asked Widodo to grant Veloso clemency because she could be a valuable witness against Indonesia’s drug syndicate.
“Indonesia’s interest is to solve its drug problem,” Aquino said. “So if this person can help uncover this drug syndicate and it’s of value to them, we can help. So to extend her life at the very least — that’s the hope.”
The president broke protocol by talking directly to the foreign minister to ensure that Indonesia reconsider the death sentence.
“He’s only supposed to be talking to his counterpart there,” said Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene Almendras. “But that shows you how determined the president was to move that message as fast as possible.”
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she sent formal letters to the Attorney General of Indonesia and the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights and invoked the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty among Southeast Asian countries.
Meanwhile, Filipino American activists say that the victory does not belong to the Aquino administration.
“It was the noise that all the organizations, the people around the world created that pressured the Philippine government to actually do something,” said Aurora Victoria David of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON).
“He had five years to do something,” said Angelica Cabande, also of NAFCON. “He didn’t have to wait within the 72 hours of her being executed. And if it wasn’t for the people, her life wouldn’t have been saved.”
The activists say they want Aquino out of office now.
“From the pork barrel scandal to what happened with Yolanda relief to the Mamasapano incident to Jennifer Laude’s case — we’re seeing that the failures are coming back to back,” said Tina Shauf of Gabriela USA.
These activists plan to advocate for the other OFWs on death row in different countries and find out what the Philippine government is planning to do to help them.
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