The online news portal of TV5
Sept. 12, 2016
(UPDATE 4 – 7:13 p.m.) MANILA – Indonesian President Joko Widodo has said that President Rodrigo Duterte gave the go-ahead for the execution of Mary Jane Veloso, who is on Indonesia’s death row for drug smuggling, The Jakarta Post said in a report published Monday.
“President Duterte has given the go-ahead to proceed with the execution,” Widodo said, based on a report of Antara news agency, quoted by The Jakarta Post.
The two leaders met last week in Indonesia during Duterte’s visit, following the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Laos.
“I have explained to [Duterte] about Mary Jane’s situation and I told him that Mary Jane [has been found guilty] for carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin. I also told him about the delay in the execution during the meeting,” Widodo said.
But, according to Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella, what President Duterte had told the Indonesian president was that the Philippines will respect the Indonesian legal process: “Follow your own laws. I will not interfere.”
Veloso was among nine foreigners scheduled for execution one year ago for drug trafficking, but got a last-minute reprieve that stunned everyone and gave her family, lawyers and the Philippine government hope she could be taken out of death row completely.
The Aquino administration then had sought to convince Jakarta that Veloso was a victim of human trafficking, turned into an unwitting drug mule by illegal recruiters connected to an international drug ring. Government lawyers, as well as the private volunteer lawyers, said Veloso’s testimony would help prosecute the ring, something they pointed out was in Indonesian’s interest too.
Upon his return to the Philippine s past midnight on Saturday, Duterte was mum on Veloso’s status.
“There are matters that I cannot tell you now. I am sorry, I’m not at liberty, but maybe I can talk to the family first before anything else,” he had said in the press conference after he landed at the Davao International Airport.
Veloso was sentenced to death in 2010 for smuggling heroin into Indonesia but insists she was duped into doing so by illegal recruiters.
Just before her scheduled execution April last year, she was given a reprieve by Widodo following the intercession of Indonesian nongovernmental organizations and the surrender of Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, the couple who allegedly tricked her into becoming a drug mule and are now facing illegal recruitment and human trafficking charges.
Velosos, Migrante ‘in shock’
“Migrante and the Veloso family are in shock over the news coming from Jakarta. We demand an immediate explanation from President Duterte and Secretary Yasay, both duty-bound to defend the rights of Filipinos overseas, especially drug trafficking victims like Mary Jane,” a statement read.
For his part, National Union of People’s Lawyers secretary general Edre Olalia, who is helping Veloso, posted on Twitter her lawyers declined “to comment until there is official information from Philippine and Indonesian governments.”
On Saturday, Yasay was quoted by The Philippine Daily Inquirer as saying that Veloso’s execution “had been deferred because she would be testifying in the deposition case against her illegal recruiter.”
“After prosecuting the illegal recruiter who (is one of) the main principals here, and if it turns out in the trial in the Philippines that Mary Jane (was) a victim, then at that point we can ask for clemency soon,” he said.
Asked if The Jakarta Post’s report was accurate, an Indonesian journalist from Yogyakarta, where Veloso is jailed, told InterAksyon: “Yes it is accurate because the official web site of the Indonesia government also reports the same. Indonesia mass media also reports that.”
The journalist provided InterAksyon with a link to the Indonesian Cabinet Secretariat’s web site, which published a statement regarding the issue, written in Bahasa, on Monday.
“What the government web site just reports is that Duterte let the Indonesia government execute Mary Jane,” the journalist told InterAksyon.
Here’s the post of the Indonesian Cabinet Secretariat: (http://setkab.go.id/soal-mary-jane-presiden-jokowi-presiden-filipina-duterte-izinkan-dieksekusi/).
For his part, the lawyer of Veloso’s family and National Union of People’s Lawyers Secretary-General Edre Olalia believed that there is still a possibility of clemency.
In a text message to InterAksyon around 5:00 p.m., Olalia said the reported statements of Duterte and Widodo, while not exactly the same, did not mean that they were incompatible with each other. Olalia added that there was probably some “nuancing somewhere” of the separate accounts of the exchange between the two leaders.
Meanwhile, he said that he still holds on to the official position that Veloso has been convicted and remains on death row, but “her execution is postponed indefinitely to await the results of the cases against her alleged recruiters and traffickers.”
Olalia said clemency remains an option “to serve both justice and mercy.”
“As lawyers, we need to be prudent and circumspect on such a serious and sensitive matter absent a studied, categorical and unequivocal statement or unassailable information either way.
Meanwhile, we await the taking of her deposition even as we regroup, look forward and await Mary Jane to come home eventually.”
Meanwhile, Vice President Maria Leonor Santo Tomas Gerona-Robredo said the Jakarta Post report came as a shock.
“Mary Jane’s case is emblematic of the hardships faced by millions of our OFWs. We must keep her welfare in mind, along with the welfare of all OFWs, as they remain under our government’s protection and support despite working overseas,” she said.
“We trust that the Administration will immediately shed light on this report to address the understandable concern of so many of us Filipinos.”
(With a report from JV Arcena, News5