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Velosos home with KO punch at Aquino

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The family of Mary Jane Veloso returned home from Indonesia on Friday with scathing criticism of the government’s alleged mishandling of her case.

Celia Veloso, Mary Jane’s mother, said President Benigno Aquino III should not be credited for the 11th-hour reprieve that saved her daughter from death by firing squad in Indonesia on Wednesday.

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President Aquino said his administration did everything it could to save Mary Jane Veloso.

READ: Veloso mom denies Aquino gov’t role in Mary Jane’s execution reprieve

READ: Aquino to critics: Let’s work together to help Veloso

Aquino: We’ll continue to help

In a text message to the Inquirer, Mr. Aquino said he would continue working to help Veloso and her family.

“We did what we could. We were not involved in the creation of the problem. You must remember she was arrested, if I’m not mistaken, in April of 2010,” Mr. Aquino told reporters in Naga City, Cebu province, after the inauguration of an expansion project of cement manufacturer Cemex Philippines.

Mr. Aquino was elected in May 2010. He took over from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo a month later.

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The family expressed hope that the Indonesian government would commute Mary Jane’s death sentence or free her after her alleged recruiter turned herself in to authorities on Monday.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo stayed Mary Jane Veloso’s execution after President Aquino asked him during a Southeast Asian leaders’ summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Tuesday that she be made a witness against a human trafficking ring that duped her into smuggling drugs.

Veloso was caught with 2.6 kilos of heroin in her suitcase at Yogyakarta airport in 2010. She claims the heroin was sewn into her suitcase lining without her knowledge.

The government transported Veloso’s family—Celia, her father Cesar, sons Mark Daniel and Mark Darren, sisters Maritess and Darling, and her estranged husband Michael Candelaria—to Indonesia last week so they could see her before she was executed.

After the crisis, they returned on a Philippine Airlines flight at 6 a.m. Friday together with their lawyer Edre Olalia, Connie Bragas-Regalado and Pam Pangilinan of the migrants’ group Migrante International and two representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) who helped them through their Indonesian ordeal.

Members of Migrante International met the Velosos at the airport and whisked them away, bringing them to their office in Quezon City for a news conference.

“We’ve returned home for payback… This is not about money. The government owes us because they tricked us,” 55-year-old Celia Veloso, wearing a “Save Mary Jane” T-shirt, told reporters.

In an apparent reference to President Aquino, she said: “He is telling the whole world that he helped save my daughter’s life. That is not true. Get ready, we are here to collect your debts. We will fight you.”

Veloso’s sister Marites said the government failed to give Mary Jane a capable interpreter during her trial.

“Had the government not been remiss, my sister would not have been in trouble,” she said.

Who gets credit not issue Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte denied the charge, saying that as early as 2011, President Aquino asked then Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for clemency for Veloso.

Mr. Aquino also asked Widodo for clemency and a review of Veloso’s case twice, Valte said.

“The records will bear out the President’s actions very clearly. It is not an issue of who gets credit, but more importantly, Mary Jane was able to get a reprieve,” she said.

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TAGS: Aquino, Benigno Aquino III, Celia Veloso, Cemex Philippines, Mary Jane Veloso, President Aquino, Veloso
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