De Lima hits Duterte: Go signal of Veloso execution 'disgusting, not surprising'
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – It’s disgusting yet something not surprising from the President.
Neophyte Senator Leila De Lima on Monday, September 12, slammed President Rodrigo Duterte for allegedly giving a go signal to the execution of Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipina on death row in Indonesia. (READ: The story of Mary Jane Veloso, in her own words)
The President’s act, while deplorable, is nothing new, with the senator citing the present government policy on extrajudicial killings in the country.
“But then again, magtataka pa ba tayo, e sa mismong bansa natin araw araw mahigit kwarenta katao na ang napapatay nang walang paglilitis. So ano pa ang kwenta nga naman talaga ng buhay ng isa pang Mary Jane Veloso,” De Lima said.
(But then again, are we surprised? In our own country, more than 40 people are killed without any trial everyday. So what is the worth of another life, the life of Mary Jane Veloso)
“Mapa judicial o extra-judicial execution, yan na ang polisiya ng gobyerno. Nakakalungkot. Nakakaiyak. Nakakahindik,” she added.
(Judicial or extrajudicial executions, that is now the policy of the government. It's saddening. It makes me cry. It's shocking in a disgusting way.)
Calling the remark “disgusting,” De Lima said it is heartbreaking for no less than the President to easily “throw away” all government efforts in saving Veloso’s life. As President, it is well within Duterte’s power to hold off the execution, De Lima said.
“I am sad and heartbroken that the President will throw away all our efforts to save a life just like that, when it is still in his power to request for the holding off of the execution,” De Lima said.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, for his part, shared the same dismay over the reported statement of the Philippine president.
“This is hearbreaking. I am at a loss for words to describe how it has come to this,” Pangilinan said.
'All efforts have come to nothing'
With Duterte’s apparent go signal to the Indonesian government, the senator claimed that the administration is no longer keen on saving the life of Veloso.
"This means he will no longer intercede, and that saving Veloso's life is no longer the policy of the President," De Lima said.
Unlike the present government, De Lima said the Aquino administration prioritized saving Veloso’s life.
“The fate of Mary Jane and saving her life has been important to us in the Aquino Administration,” she said.
The DOJ under her, she said, provided the Indonesian government the legal basis to delay the execution using the “mutual cooperation treaty between the 2 countries on the prosecution of crimes” and by catching Veloso’s recruiters.
The apparent new policy, De Lima said, erases and downplays past efforts.
“Now it appears all our efforts have come to nothing, because the President is a firm believer in the death penalty and the punishment of those convicted of drug trafficking, and these personal beliefs are now our government's foreign policy insofar as the fate of Veloso is concerned,” she said.
Former president Benigno Aquino III supposedly broke protocol in April 2015 when he directly talked with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi for a last-minute appeal to save the Filipina on death row.
Aquino requested Indonesia to turn Veloso into a state witness so it could pin down a drug trafficking syndicate, which allegedly includes Veloso's recruiters.
Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto, for his part, said Veloso deserves clemency and the government's full support in securing it.
"[She] was not a drug lord. She was not even a user. On the contrary, she was used to smuggle drugs without her knowledge," Recto said.
"If she was a conscious, willing participant in transporting drugs, then any official reluctance in pursuing clemency for her can somewhat be explained, although this can never be justified. But she was duped by con men, members of an international syndicate, some of whom have been arrested," he added.
Malacanang should clarify the matter
Indonesian President Joko Widodo told reporters in Bahasa Indonesia on Monday: "I have already spoken (to President Duterte) about Mary Jane's case. I said that Mary Jane brought 2.6 kilograms of heroin. And I also told him about the postponement of the execution. At that time, President Duterte said 'go ahead' if (Mary Jane) were to be executed."(READ: Jokowi: Duterte won't stop Mary Jane execution)
But Malacañang denied such statement, saying Duterte only said he would "not interfere" with Indonesia’s laws.
With the confusing statements, De Lima and Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV asked the Palace to clarify the matter immediately.
“There is still much confusion in this, as Secretary Yasay has said that as a result of the meeting of the two Presidents, the execution has been held off indefinitely. Malacanang should clarify what actually happened,” De Lima said.
“We hope the DFA can clarify the matter asap, not just for the public who are faced with contradicting statements but more so for Mary Jane’s family and loved ones,” Aquino told Rappler in a text message.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, however, believes that Duterte was only misinterpreted.
“Taken out of context, I’m sure. President Duterte already issued a statement saying he never said anything like that,” Sotto told Rappler.
Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Juan Miguel Zubiri, for their part, refused to comment on the issue, saying they have yet to hear the whole story. – Rappler.com