LANGKAWI—President Aquino has not given up on the fate of Mary Jane Veloso and appealed anew to Indonesia to spare her from the death row.
Before flying back to Manila at the conclusion of the ASEAN summit, Aquino made a last-minute call to Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi to propose turning Veloso into a witness and help authorities to “uncover” the drug syndicate that duped her into smuggling drugs.
Aquino told Marsudi that it is in the interest of both Indonesia and the Philippines to keep Veloso alive to help in efforts to run after the “bigger fish,” referring to her illegal recruiters and the drug syndicate.
According Aquino, Marsudi made the assurance of relaying the proposal to Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
“It’s sad but it’s a truism. Absent the complainant who normally will become a principal witness, it’s very difficult to prosecute people who violate our laws. When you don’t have a witness to prove the assertions that we will have in the allegations against these," he told reporters.
“So in that aspect when we discovered that wait, since she wasn’t cooperating initially and she’s now very cooperative, we have an opportunity in our case to get the necessary evidence to successfully prosecute the illegal recruiters. So we presented to Indonesia the opportunity also that she’s cooperating, we might be able to also uncover this drug syndicate that was behind her predicament.
“Absent her providing testimony, there’s a chance we will [not] be able to catch up with them at some point in time. But she does present an opportunity right now to be able to uncover all the participants and start the process of bringing them to the bars of justice. But absent her, that becomes a very difficult if not an impossible proposition. So we presented that it seems to serve both of our interests to keep her alive to be able to testify and serve the ends of justice for both our concerns.”
Marsudi asked Aquino why the suggestion came up only now. Aquino explained to Marusdi that details of the case came into light only in the last few days. He also pointed out that Veloso did not cooperate at first in giving information about her recruiters.
Aquino is hopeful that Indonesia will consider and give his suggestion a fair hearing.
“I’m sure that they will consider it and there will not be an action that is not reversible until they come to a decision,” Aquino said.
Aquino is relying on the Philippines’ good relations with Indonesia, citing the successful negotiation of the two countries’ maritime boundaries which took 20 years to complete and Indonesia’s $4 million assistance to the Philippines in the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda. But he recognized that Indonesia will make a decision based on its national interest.
“I’m sure they’re interested in maintaining very good relations with us and they will give a fair hearing to this proposal of ours. Whether or not they will subscribe to our idea that it’s important to keep her alive to be able to testify against the bigger fish will be subject to their national interest,” Aquino said.
Aquino has directed Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to keep in touch with his Indonesian counterpart and get feedback to his proposal.