|Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso|
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Wednesday that the Philippine government would tread lightly in seeking clemency for Mary Jane Veloso, as the country would not wish to put pressure on Indonesia in the politically charged drug trafficking case.
Addressing the dangerous drugs committee of the House of Representatives, De Lima said the focus of an ongoing preliminary investigation was to determine whether Veloso, who was granted a last-minute stay on her execution last April on drug charges, was a "hapless victim or a willing participant."
"On the premise that the investigation will prove she was a hapless victim, [then we may ask for] possible executive clemency, which may mean either pardon or the commutation of sentence. But we don't want to be harping on this," she said.
"We would not want the Indonesian government to be pressured by our government," De Lima said in answer to a question on what concrete steps the government was taking to save Veloso from the death penalty.
The 30-year-old Veloso was supposed to have been executed by firing squad on April 29, until last-minute appeals by President Aquino and the surrender of her alleged recruiter, Maria Cristina Sergio, prompted Indonesia to give her a temporary reprieve.
De Lima said the national prosecution service, under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty of Asean countries, had made a request to Indonesia and Malaysia with respect to proving Veloso's claims of innocence but she added she could not disclose the details of the request.
Veloso, who had been caught trying to bring in a suitcase that was found to contain heroin from Malaysia to Indonesia, had said the luggage had not been hers and she had been duped by her recruiter and a syndicate of "African-looking" men.
De Lima said the DOJ was trying to confirm Veloso's allegations. A case of illegal recruitment, human trafficking and swindling has been filed against her recruiter, Sergio, Sergio's partner, Julius Lacanilao, and a certain "Ike."
She also said she was keeping Indonesia's Attorney General abreast of the developments on Veloso's case.
"We need to help each other so we can find solutions to drug trafficking," De Lima said.
"Based on many indications, we're looking at the West African Drug Syndicate (WADS), those African-looking men, are most probably members of the WADs," she said.
"We don't want to push executive clemency, because in the final analysis, it's going to be the call of the Indonesian authorities. We will let the Indonesian lawyers to make their next move," De Lima said.
Francisco Noel Fernandez, the special assistant to the Department of Foreign Affairs' Office of the Undersecretary for Overseas Workers Affairs said a total of 41 Filipinos have been meted the death penalty worldwide, out of 1,288 who have been serving sentences.
"They are all incarcerated in 4 countries, 18 in Malaysia, 21 in China, 1 in Saudi Arabia, and Mary Jane Veloso in Indonesia," he said.
Also at the hearing, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said Veloso's husband Michael Candelaria and their 2 sons would be placed under the custody of Witness Protection Program in response to threats against their lives.
Source: globalnation.inquirer.net, May 27, 2015
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