MANILA – “Show us that you are the president.”
This was Marites Veloso-Laurente’s challenge to President Aquino in a press conference held in front of the office of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Pasay City today, Apr. 7.
Laurente is the sister of Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipino facing death row in Indonesia.
“For five years, we never felt your presence,” she added, referring to Aquino.
Migrante International, the largest overseas Filipino workers group, assailed the criminal neglect of the Aquino government that resulted to the most number of execution – seven, as of this writing – under one regime.
Veloso was arrested in April 2010 for reportedly carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin, estimated to be amounting to $500,000. She is among the 125 Filipinos facing death row under Aquino.
Exchange with DFA official
Protesters demanded Foreign Affairs secretary Alberto del Rosario, among other high DFA officials, to step out of their office and face the Veloso family.
“They really neglected the case. They did not fulfill their promise that we would be updated of her case. In reality, I was the one calling them and they never pick up the phone. When they do, they would tell us that Ma’am Patricia was either abroad or having a vacation,” Laurente said.
She added that it was, in fact, Veloso, herself, who informed the family that she was sentenced to die.
During the press conference, Francisco Noel Fernandez III, special assistant under the DFA’s Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Welfare, approached the protesters and the Veloso family. Connie Bragas-Regalado, chairperson of Migrante Sectoral Party, said they are not belittling the DFA official but said that he is not in the position to speak in behalf of the government office.
Still, Fernandez was allowed to speak during the protest. He said that during those times that the family was calling the DFA and did not get any response, officials were busy attending to Filipinos who were facing death row, and eventually executed, in China.
The DFA official was referring to the execution of three OFWs in China back in 2011.
“But this was not a one-time incident. This happened over five years,” Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International, retaliated during the heated exchange.
Fernandez added that the Aquino government is going for two approaches – through legal means with their motions for judicial review and extra-legal through Aquino’s appeal for executive clemency before the Indonesian government. Fernandez handed his calling card to Marites, who reluctantly accepted it. After the press conference, she tore the calling card into pieces.
Appeal to the public
Until lately, the Veloso family had been kept quiet on Mary Jane’s case. During the candle lighting protest last Apr. 6, they said that they also feared the drug syndicates who were threatening them. Marites told this reporter that DFA officials told them not to contact the media as it would affect her sister’s case.
Martinez said the Aquino government deliberately kept the public in the dark on Veloso’s case. Migrante International occasionally had dialogues with DFA officials but Veloso’s name never cropped up.
But for Celia, they are left with no other choice but to bring her daughter’s case before the public.
“We only want to save my daughter,” she said. Celia, in tears, added, “help us, Mr. President.” (bulatlat.com)