Senator Chiz Escudero, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, delivers a privilege speech on the 2014 General Appropriations Bill, Tuesday morning. According to Escudero, the 2014 budget proposal, which includes funds for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction programs and projects in the amount of P70 billion, will also include specific funding for the rehabilitation of the Visayas on top of the existing calamity fund to be sourced from items which can be postponed in the 2014 national budget. (MNS photo)

Senator Chiz Escudero, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, delivers a privilege speech on the 2014 General Appropriations Bill, Tuesday morning. According to Escudero, the 2014 budget proposal, which includes funds for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction programs and projects in the amount of P70 billion, will also include specific funding for the rehabilitation of the Visayas on top of the existing calamity fund to be sourced from items which can be postponed in the 2014 national budget. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) — Senator Francis Escudero on Wednesday said the Philippines should lead the campaign for the abolition of death penalty as a punishment even as the government exhausts all means to commute the sentence on Mary Jane Veloso.

“Una, ituloy ang pagsulong ng legal na proseso hanggang ma-commute o pardon si Mary Jane. Pangalawa, pangunahan at isulong ng ating bansa sa international community ang pag-alis na ng death penalty bilang kaparusahan sa anumang krimen,” he said.

He also said Veloso’s plight should serve as a lesson to other Filipinos seeking jobs abroad to be vigilant.

Go after alleged recruiter

Other senators, on the other hand, urged the government to go after the alleged recruiter of Veloso, who was sentenced to death due to drug smuggling in Indonesia, to make permanent the reprieve granted to her.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said the government should fast-track and prioritize the cases against the illegal recruiter and see if the claim of Veloso that she was just set up is true.

“This already led to temporary reprieve. A definitive finding may lead to a permanent reprieve or at least commutation of sentence in Indonesia,” the senator said.

Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the government should continue to work for Veloso’s release.

“We should try and defend her now that we have the recruiter,” he said in a separate text message.

Senator Nancy Binay, for her part, said the government should not stop in its efforts to go after those responsible for Veloso’s plight.

“Sana ay papanagutin ng ating pamahalaan ang tunay na may sala upang wala nang matulad kay Mary Jane,” she said in a press statement.

She reiterated her appeal to increase the legal assistance fund of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“Nawa’y makita rin ng ating pamahalaan ang kahalagahan ng pagbibigay ng sapat na pondo para sa mga serbisyong higit na kailangan ng ating mga kababayan sa ibang bansa,” she said.

The senator described the reprieve on Veloso as a miracle.

“With God, nothing is impossible. Huwag po tayong bibitaw sa panawagan na tuluyang makansela ang hatol kay Mary Jane. Ang milagrong ito ay isang patotoo na ang nagkakaisang tinig hanggang langit naririnig,” she said.

“But let us not forget that Mary Jane is just one of over 70 Filipinos languishing in death row abroad. This is a painful reminder of the need to intensify our country’s measures against human trafficking,” she added.

Veloso was scheduled to be executed Tuesday night but the Indonesian government decided to suspend it after Maria Kristina Sergio, the recruiter who allegedly tricked her into bringing a suitcase laden with 2.6 kilograms of heroin to Indonesia on April 2010, turned herself in to authorities on Tuesday morning.

Tony Spontana, spokesman for Indonesia’s Attorney General said: “There was a request from the Philippine president regarding the perpetrator who’s suspected of committing human trafficking and surrendered in the Philippines. MJ is needed for her testimony.”

The other eight drug convicts scheduled for execution, including two Australians, four Nigerians, a Brazilian, and an Indonesian were not spared. (MNS)