Convicted Filipina told when she’ll face firing squad in Indonesia
Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina convicted of drug smuggling in Indonesia, will face a firing squad on Tuesday, her sister who is in Jakarta revealed on Saturday.
In an interview with Manila-based radio station dzBB, Maritess Veloso-Laurente said it was Mary Jane herself who told her about the execution date.
Laurente said her sister was summoned by prison authorities in the Nusakumbangan jail facility on Saturday afternoon where she was handed a letter purportedly from Indonesia’s Attorney General’s Office.
The Veloso family had earlier received a copy of the execution order, but with no fixed date on when the death penalty would be carried out, independent news portal Bulatlat.com said in a report quoting Edre Olalia of the National Union of People’s Lawyers who is in Jakarta.
A second letter which Laurente said was handed to Mary Jane later in the afternoon indicated the execution date on Tuesday, April 28
“We were already very anxious when we arrived here in Indonesia, but it’s a lot different when there’s already a date set,” she said in Filipino.
Alerted of the development early last night, the Department of Foreign Affairs said the Philippine Embassy in Jakarta did not receive any notice from Indonesian authorities.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario earlier said the execution of Mary Jane would not take place until the Philippine government receives an official notice from Indonesia.
“The protocol calls for 72 hours to be given to the convicted person and the respective embassies. We have not received anything. From the time we receive it they cannot execute within three days,” Del Rosario said on Friday.
Indonesia on Saturday night said it has officially notified eight foreign drug convicts that they will be executed, but a Frenchman was granted a temporary reprieve after Paris stepped up pressure on Jakarta.
“Today, just now, we just finished notifying every convict, nine people except for Serge,” a spokesman for the attorney-general’s office, Tony Spontana, told AFP, adding it would be at least three days until the sentences are carried out.
Officials said earlier that Frenchman Serge Atlaoui, who was expected to be among the group being put to death, will not be included in the forthcoming batch as he still has an outstanding legal appeal.
Spontana did not give a date for the executions.
The 30-year-old Filipina was arrested in 2010 after undergoing security screening at the Yogyakarta airport for allegedly carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin. Veloso, who was supposed to work as a maid, said the bag from where the heroin was found was allegedly lent to her by her recruiter, Ma. Kristina Sergio.
Consular officials from the countries whose citizens face execution were arriving on Saturday for a briefing from Indonesian foreign ministry officials, said Charles Jose, Philippine foreign affairs department spokesman.
Jakarta has said an exact date for the executions could not be decided yet, as a judicial review was still pending for the sole Indonesian in the group of 10 people who face death by firing squad.
Indonesia’s Supreme Court said the ruling on that case could be made as early as Monday, paving the way for the executions to proceed.
Authorities said on Thursday they had ordered prosecutors to start making preparations for the executions. However convicts must be given 72 hours notice before executions are carried, and this notice is yet to be given.
Veloso’s family arrived at Cilacap, the town on Java that serves as the gateway to Nusakambangan early Saturday. The father and mother, her two sons aged six and 12, and sister Maritess pushed through a scrum of waiting journalists.
“If anything bad happens to may daughter, I will hold many people accountable. They owe us my daughter’s life,” Veloso’s 55-year-old mother, Celia, told a Philippine radio station. “I hope my appeal reaches President (Joko) Widodo.”
Mary Jane together with the other convicted foreign drug smugglers were transferred to Nusakumbangan island in the wee hours of Friday.
The Filipina was allowed to meet her family for two hours.
Maritess said her sister seems to have accepted her fate. “She has put on weight. She’s courageous, grew stronger but still cheerful. She did not show a tinge of sadness, fear or anxiety,” she said.
Mary Jane embraced her children tightly and peppered them with kisses. She then told her children not to be ashamed about what happened to their mother.
“Mga anak, kapag ako’y namatay, dapat ipagmalaki niyo si Mama. Si Mama namatay na malinis ang puso, namatay siya dahil sa kasalanan ng ibang tao (My children, be proud of your mother. Your mother died with a clear heart. She died because of the sins of other people),” Maritess said as she quoted Mary Jane’s final words to her children.
She said her sister has asked prison authorities to allow at least one family member to be with her until her last moment.
“She said she doesn’t want her body to be desecrated like what reportedly happened to one convict who was executed whose body was allegedly thrown into the sea,” Maritess said.
Malacañang on Saturday said President Benigno Aquino 3rd may get a chance to talk to Indonesian President Jokowi Widodo and make an appeal on Veloso’s case when they meet in Malaysia on Sunday for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit.
“It’s not unusual for heads of state and heads of government to talk on the sidelines or between plenary sessions during events such as the Asean summit,” Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. said on state radio, dzRB.
“Of course, if there would be an opportunity for the President to talk to President Widodo, Veloso’s case would among the priority concerns,” he added.
Vice President Jejomar Binay on Saturday called on Filipinos to “pray harder” for Veloso.
Binay spoke to reporters upon his arrival from Indonesia where he attended the Asian-African conference, also known as the Bandung conference.
“Let us pray for her. Let us just pray harder because those I talked to, they understand, but some say ‘It so happened the current situation is that there is an operation against those involved in drug abuse’,” he said. “But let us pray harder. Let us just pray harder. The power of prayer hopefully.”
Calm and composed
NUPL’s Olalia who was tapped by the Veloso family to help them described Mary Jane as “incredibly strong, calm and composed”.
“She told her family not to feel sad and is buoying up their sprits. The little boys were playful with their mom. The parents of Mary Jane who were initially broken regained their composure. Sisters show intense affinity with each other,” Olalia, the NUPL secretary general said.
Olalia said they have asked Indonesian authorities to allow two more visits, Sunday and Monday so that the Veloso family could spend more time with Mary Jane.
Mary Jane, according to Olalia, maintained that she is innocent of the crime she is accused of.
“It was never proven that she was a drug mule or that she was a courier.
The court was only able to prove that she was in possession of an illegal substance but has no knowledge, no consent and no intention,” Olalis told Bulatlat.com.
This, he said, is why the prosecutor, during the trial stage, only recommended a life imprisonment penalty for Veloso.
The human trafficking ground was adopted by the Indonesian lawyers, who were retained by the Philippine Embassy, in collaboration with the NUPL.
If proven that she is a victim of human trafficking, Veloso should be repatriated, said Olalia.
Subhed: Personal appeal
Veloso has personally appealed to President Widodo to spare her from execution.
“I sincerely appeal to you, Honorable Sir, to grant me pardon from the death penalty. I believe and am certain that you have a compassionate heart and are very wise to make a humane decision,” Veloso said in a handwritten appeal.
The letter, which was written in Bahasa, was translated to English by University of the Philippines professor Ramon Guillermo. She wrote the appeal last Apr. 15 at the Wirogunan Correctional Facility in Yogyakarta.
Veloso said her two children need her.
“Honorable Sir, I believe that as the father of your child, you can feel what it would be like if your child were in the position of my own children, it is surely very painful because it would take away the right of my children to be with their mother, if my plea for pardon is not granted,” she said.
She added that as “Father of the Indonesian Nation,” Widodo should protect the people.
“I sincerely pray to to be saved from the death penalty and to be given the opportunity to bring up my children,” she said.
President Widodo justified the death penalty spree on the basis that drug traffickers on death row had “destroyed the future of the nation.” In December last year, he told students that the death penalty for convicted drug traffickers was an “important shock therapy” for anyone who violates Indonesia’s drug laws.
Indonesia ended a four-year unofficial moratorium on the use of the death penalty on March 15, 2013 when it executed by firing squad Adami Wilson, a 48-year-old Malawi national. An Indonesian court had convicted Wilson in 2004 of smuggling one kilogram of heroin into the world’s largest archipelago.
“President Widodo should recognize that the death penalty is not a crime deterrent but an unjustifiable and barbaric punishment. Widodo should promote Indonesia as a rights-respecting democracy by joining the countries that have abolished capital punishment,” Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch said.
ARES P. GUTIERREZ, MANAGING EDITOR; CATHERINE S. VALENTE, LLANESCA T. PANTI AND NEIL A. ALCOBER, REPORTERS; AFP AND BULATLAT.COM