MANILA – The mother of Filipino drug convict Mary Jane Veloso on Friday said President Aquino should not take credit for the reprieve given to her daughter, saying it was the efforts of activist groups, the church and media that helped stop Mary Jane's execution.
In a press briefing, Veloso's mother, Celia, expressed her grievances against the Philippine government for its alleged slow action to help her daughter.
She denied claims by government officials that it was President Aquino's last minute appeal for Veloso's life that led to the stay of execution.
"Ngayong dumating na kami sa Pilipinas para maningil. Marami kaming singilin. Marami kaming pautang e kaya lang hindi pera. Pautang sa gobyerno natin dahil hanggang sa huli, niloko pa rin kami na sinabi niya, na ibinabalita sa buong mundo na sa kanya nanggaling ang pagkabuhay ng anak ko kaya nakaligtas sa bitay. Di po totoo yun. Wala pong katotoohan yun. Kaya humanda kayo. Nandito kami para lumaban sa inyo," she said.
The older Veloso credited media for reporting on the plight of Veloso, which led to the family getting support from activist group Migrante.
She said priests, nuns, teachers and organizations here and abroad helped spread the word about Mary Jane.
"Kung di sa inyong tulong, baka nawalan na ako ng bunso. Nang dahil sa inyo, buhay pa din ang anak ko kaya nagpapasalamat ako sa inyong lahat," she said.
Connie Bragas-Regalado of Migrante also credited the efforts of the church and the mass movement in Indonesia for saving Veloso. She said the government was too slow in helping Mary Jane after she was convicted and sentenced to die by firing squad.
"Gusto nilang pagtakapan ang kanilang kapalpakan. Itinago ang kaso ni Mary Jane," Regalado said, adding that even the Filipino community in Indonesia was surprised about Veloso's case.
Mary Jane Veloso, 30, was spared from the firing squad after officials in Manila asked Indonesian President Jokowi Widodo to allow her to give evidence to an investigation into the network that allegedly recruited her.
Widodo, who ignored appeals from Brazil and Australia when the execution of eight other drug convicts went ahead on Wednesday, has said the reprieve for Veloso was "not a cancellation but a postponement".
Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras earlier told media that President Aquino broke protocol to tell the Indonesian foreign minister about the surrender of Veloso's alleged recruiter, Maria Kristina Sergio.
Aquino said Veloso needed to testify against Sergio for allegedly handing her the bag, which contained the hidden stash of drugs.
Indonesian Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo confirmed Veloso was taken off the execution list at the last minute on Wednesday because of the appeal.
"There was an official request submitted to the president (Joko Widodo) and president responded to the request. We gave the Philippines government some time to reveal the truth of human trafficking crime. The Philippines government has asked Indonesia to postpone the execution of Mary Jane (Veloso), as she needs to testify for the case. Mary Jane was asked to give detailed information and testify, that's why we postponed it as we respected the ongoing legal process in the Philippines," Prasetyo said.
Meanwhile, Veloso's lawyers said they are hoping to get more details on the reprieve.
According to her lawyer, Atty. Edre Olalia of the National Union of People's Lawyers, they still need to have a copy of the stay order so they can get more specific details such as whether a preliminary investigation on Veloso's alleged recruiter is enough or whether a conviction is needed for that stay to become permanent.
"Kailangan naming malaman kung anong nasasaklaw nito. Wala pa kaming nakukuhang formal document ordering the suspension pero officially na-announce na," Olalia said in a press conference.
Veloso's alleged recruiter, Kristina Sergio, surrendered to authorities on Tuesday. Cases of human trafficking, illegal recruitment and estafa were filed against her.
Olalia explained that the suspension of the execution could be temporary or permanent.
"Yung postponement can be temporary or eventually permanent pero hindi niya ibinabasura or vino-void yung conviction yung alleged drug trafficking o kaya yung pagpapatupad ng sentensiya o yung implementation of death sentence which, sa kasong ito, ay firing squad," he said.
He said Veloso is now back at the Yogyakarta Provincial jail from the prison island in Nusakambangan.
Olalia announced that they will have a video conference with their counterpart, the private lawyers in Indonesia on Monday.
He also stressed the need now for more coordination between them, the lawyers and the government.
"We have to coordinate with them. We are here to help. We are not interlopers. We do not intend to grab any credit. We are just here to save a life of our kababayan," Olalia said.
He also shared how the group had a difficult time trying to ask the Department of Foreign Affairs to connect them to the Indonesian lawyers handling Veloso's case.
"Wala kaming nakuhang aksyon. Ang laking panahon ang nasayang," he said. With reports by Reuters and Agence France-Presse