When President Rodrigo Duterte said he would raise Mary Jane Veloso’s case with his Indonesian counterpart, everyone assumed that he would seek another delay in her execution, or permanent release from prison.
However, the President told the Indonesian government to go ahead and execute Veloso, who was sentenced to death for bringing in two kilos of heroin in 2009, according to Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
Widodo said he and Duterte were discussing the woman’s case when the controversial Filipino president made the remarks.
“I explained about the delay of execution the other day,” Widodo told reporters in Jakarta on Monday.
“President Duterte then said please, go ahead if you want to execute.”
Widodo said he will advise Indonesian Attorney General H. Muhammad Prasetyo to follow up the legal process of the case.
Malacañang and the Department of Foreign Affairs denied that the President asked Indonesia to execute Veloso.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte only told Widodo to “follow your own laws.”
“He said regarding Mary Jane Veloso, follow your own laws, we will not interfere,’” Abella told reporters.
“There was no categorical statement. There was no endorsement. He simply said, ‘Follow your own laws,’” he said.
Asked if Duterte pleaded to save Veloso’s life, Abella said: “We’re not privy to that. They will not proceed with our own laws.”
Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay also clarified that Duterte never gave the green light for the execution of Veloso.
Foreign Assistant Secretary Charles Jose said the government will continue with the case filed against Veloso’s recruiters who are facing charges of illegal recruitment, human trafficking and estafa.
“MJ’s testimony is vital for this case to prosper. If at the end of the trial it is proven that MJ was a victim, then we can use this outcome to request for another judicial review,” he said.
Veloso was moments away from facing the firing squad last year when she was granted a temporary reprieve after a woman suspected of recruiting her was arrested in the Philippines.
Her case attracted attention in the Philippines and Indonesia, with some groups holding rallies of support. Sen. Manny Pacquiao was one of those who pleaded for Veloso’s life to be spared.
Veloso’s supporters claimed that she went to Indonesia to work as a maid but she was duped by an international drug syndicate to carry heroin.
Duterte has vowed to continue an intensified campaign against illegal drugs. Since he took to office, thousands of suspected drug users and pushers have been killed by the police and unknown groups.
Widodo is waging his own war against drugs and has ordered the execution of 18 convicted smugglers — including 15 foreigners — since taking office in October 2014.
In an audio recording released last week, Veloso appealed to Duterte for help.
“I’ve been suffering for so long here in Indonesia, suffering even though I am innocent. You are my only hope,” she said. “I’ve been in Indonesia for almost seven years now, and I still haven’t been given justice. That’s all I ask from you – give me justice.”
Migrante International said the group and Veloso’s family was in “shock” over reports that Duterte did not appeal for Veloso’s life.
“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,” said Garry Martinez, chairperson of the migrant group.