BREAKING his silence on the Mary Jane Veloso issue, President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday said that it would leave a “bad taste in the mouth if we beg Indonesia something amid our strong stance against drugs.”
In his speech at the 48th founding anniversary of the 250th Presidential Airlift Wing at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City, the President said that what he told his Indonesian counterpart was to follow with his country’s laws.
“We never mentioned Veloso. Sinabi ko lang, we will respect the judgment of your courts. Period,” said Duterte, adding he told Indonesian President Joko Widodo to go ahead and implement the laws.
“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,” he added
Duterte insisted that he had nothing to apologize for. “The law is the law,” he said.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella earlier clarified that Duterte’s remarks in his bilateral talks with Widodo only meant he would respect Indonesia's laws.
Abella also said Duterte is not seeking clemency yet for Veloso until her alleged illegal recruiters are found guilty first before the Philippines can ask Indonesia for clemency.
“Ang mahalaga lang ay mapagpatuloy ang judicial process... Ituloy na natin (the local case versus Veloso's alleged illegal recruiters),” Abella said in a press briefing in Malacañang.
“If it can be clearly seen that she (Mary Jane ) is innocent, then that would be the ground for plea for clemency,” Abella added.
Abella explained that the trial against Veloso's alleged recruiters. Maria Christina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, must first be set into motion.
Sergio and Lacanilao are facing charges for allegedly duping Veloso into bringing heroin to Indonesia in 2010 at the Baloc Regional Trial Court Branch 37 in Nueva Ecija.
Sergio had claimed that two African-looking men named “Ike” and “John” recruited Veloso even as she had maintained on her innocence and that they are being used as “sacrificial lambs” to save Veloso’s life despite the fact that she (Mary Jane) has already been convicted by final judgment of drug trafficking by the Indonesia court.
Indonesia granted reprieve for Veloso after Philippine government requested to allow her to testify against the alleged recruiters.
Abella said that only when the alleged recruiters are found guilty that the Philippines can present the case to the Indonesian Supreme Court.
“You cannot impose. But actually there is no need to plea for clemency because already the execution has been deferred indefinitely,” Abella added.
The Jakarta Post on Monday reported, quoting Indonesian President Joko Widodo, that Duterte gave the “go signal” for Veloso's execution.
Malacañang denied the report, saying Duterte only told Widodo: “Follow your own laws. I will not interfere.”
Interestingly, a Reuters report, quoting court records, said Veloso’s defense that she did not know heroin was in the suitcase was baseless because she admitted to having seen black tape covering slits in the lining of the bag when she was packing her clothes.
“... the accused ignored this and continued to fill the bag with clothes. Moreover, the accused could not prove the truth of her unawareness in court, so the accused's denial cannot legally be used as a reason to free her of criminal responsibility,” the court said.
The ruling said that, therefore, her guilt was proven -- and her denial of guilt was an aggravating factor.
Veloso’s lawyer on the other hand said she did not see anything suspicious in the luggage and didn't think anything of the tape.
Though blame was placed on the interpretation of foreign press, the presidential spokesperson was quick to clarify that the Palace is not blaming Indonesia’s “Jokowi” Widodo's choice of words during his interview.
“We are not saying Jokowi misinterpreted him (Duterte). We are just giving you the context,” Abella said.
The spokesman said there is no definite schedule when Duterte would pay Veloso or her family a visit, but added that Duterte and Widodo agreed that Veloso will be allowed to testify through a deposition.
“If she can be proven innocent, that can be ground for a plea for clemency,” Abella said, stressing that Malacañang hopes that “no execution will be scheduled anytime soon as the judicial process is still on going.”
Also yesterday, Veloso's mother said she does not believe President Duterte has approved her daughter's execution in Indonesia as reported by the Jakarta Post.
In an interview on “State of the Nation,” Celia Veloso said Edre Olalia, Mary Jane’s Filipino lawyer, informed her that Malacañang has denied that Duterte said “go ahead” on her daughter’s execution during a meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Indonesia last week.
“Si Attorney Olalia po, ang sabi po niya walang katotohanan ‘yung mga naibalita na si Mary Jane po ay bibitayin. Ang sabi po ng ating Presidente, kung raw po ang kuwan ng Indonesia, igagalang niya. Ganun po ang sinabi, hindi po sinabi ni Presidente Duterte na bibitayin si Mary Jane (at) pumayag siya. ‘Di po totoo ‘yun,” she said.
Celia also said she is still waiting for Duterte to meet with them after the President said he wanted to personally discuss with them first what transpired during his meeting with Widodo.
“Para po sa akin, hindi po ako bigla-bigla na naniwala dun kasi hinihintay ko po 'yung sinabi niya na ipatatawag kaming pamilya Veloso at gusto niya pong sa amin sabihin yung napag-usapan nila (ni Widodo). ‘Yun po ang inaabangan ko kaya di po ako basta naniniwala sa mga balita,” she said.
Veloso’s mother renewed her appeal to Duterte to help save Mary Jane, insisting that her daughter is a victim.
“Magmamakaawa kami sa kanya. Alam namin galit na galit siya sa drugs. Pero iba po yung kaso ni Mary Jane. Si Mary Jane po na-frameup,” Celia said.