Philippine government denies giving up on death row inmate

Officials dismiss reports saying President Duterte gave Indonesia green light to execute Mary Jane Veloso
Philippine government denies giving up on death row inmate

Students hold placards and a picture of Filipina drug convict facing execution in Indonesia, Mary Jane Veloso, during a protest near Malacanang Palace in Manila on Sept. 13, asking Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to save Veloso. (Photo by AFP)

The Philippine government says it is not giving up on Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipino drug convict on Indonesia's death row.

Philippine officials denied media reports that said President Rodrigo Duterte had given his approval for Indonesia to go ahead with Veloso’s execution, during a meeting with Indonesian president Joko Widodo last week.

Widodo discussed the fate of 32-year-old Veloso with Duterte on Sept. 9 when they met at the presidential palace in Jakarta, according to Indonesia’s Antara news agency.

Duterte was in Indonesia Sept. 8-9 following an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Laos. He was scheduled to meet Veloso, but the visit was called off, an official at the Philippine embassy in Jakarta said. 

"I explained [to him] about Mary Jane's situation, and I told him that Mary Jane carried 2.6 kilograms of heroin... At that time, President Duterte gave the green light for the execution," Antara quoted Widodo as saying.

Indonesian Attorney-General Muhammad Prasetyo would still follow legal processes, Widodo said.

However, Duterte’s spokesman Ernesto Abella, later said the president only told Widodo to "follow your own laws."

"[Duterte's] actual statement and conversation with President Widodo went like this … he said 'follow your own laws, I will not interfere,'" Abella said in a statement.

The Philippine Foreign Ministry also denied the reports.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay said Duterte only told Widodo that "he respects their judicial processes and will accept whatever final decision they will arrive at regarding her case."

Veloso, who remains on death row for drug smuggling, was temporarily spared the firing squad in April last year.

She says she was tricked into transporting heroin by a friend. Philippines justice officials have filed cases against her alleged recruiters, including the friend, with the intent of investigating them for human trafficking and illegal recruitment.

In a statement, Veloso's lawyers said they "hold on to the official line that Mary Jane has been convicted and remains on death row in accordance with Indonesia's own laws."

"Her execution is postponed indefinitely to await the results of the cases in the Philippines against her alleged recruiters and traffickers," they added.

The lawyers said the issue of possible clemency for Veloso "remains a viable option to serve both justice and mercy."

Sign up to receive UCAN Daily Full Bulletin
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
The Catholic bishops' head of the Episcopal Commission on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People expressed the hope that Duterte will continue to appeal for the life of Veloso.

"It is our hope in the migrants ministry that our government continue with its appeal for [Veloso's] life," said Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga.

He described as "regrettable" the "conflicting reports" regarding the actions of Duterte.

Reaction to the initial reports drew an angry reaction from Indonesia’s bishop’s conference.

"How easy it is for them to make a heartless decision regarding the death of Mary Jane," said Azas Tigor Nainggolan, coordinator of the human rights desk of the Indonesian Bishops' Commission for Justice, Peace and Pastoral for Migrant-Itinerant People.

It "shows an arrogance and a willingness to get rid of the existence of God who owns the life of human beings. Their stance is so horrible."



© Copyright 2019, All rights reserved
© Copyright 2019, Union of Catholic Asian News Limited. All rights reserved
Expect for any fair dealing permitted under the Hong Kong Copyright Ordinance.
No part of this publication may be reproduced by any means without prior permission.