President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will not express his stand on the case of Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipino on death row in Indonesia, until his government crafts a policy on the issue, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz Angeles said Wednesday.
Cruz Angeles said the President will stay mum despite the appeal of the Veloso family for Mr. Marcos to bring up the matter with his Indonesian counterpart Joko Widodo.
“When it’s matters of international relations, the President will make a pronouncement only when the policy is already set in place and after recommendations made by DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs),” she said.
“We are always very careful about any statements because they have repercussions later on. We also do not want to transgress the sovereignty of another state,” the Press Secretary added.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo met with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi in Jakarta on the sidelines of Mr. Marcos’ state visit earlier this week to formally ask for executive clemency for Veloso, who has been sentenced to death in Indonesia on drug trafficking charges.
Angeles assured the public the government is continuously pushing for clemency to be granted to Veloso, a domestic helper from Nueva Ecija, who was arrested in 2010 for smuggling 2.6 kilograms of heroin into Indonesia.
She denied the accusations, saying she was tricked by her recruiter to bring the drugs, valued at around $500,000 or over P28 million, contained in the seams of a suitcase that Veloso said was given to her.
She was meted the death penalty in October 2010 and was supposed to be executed by firing squad in April 2015. However, she was granted a last-minute stay of execution so she could stand as a witness in the human trafficking case against her recruiter Kristina Sergio and Sergio’s partner Julius Lacanilao.
Veloso, now 37, is currently detained at the Wonosari Women’s Penitentiary in Yogyakarta and is in “relatively good health,” the DFA said.
The Philippine Embassy in Jakarta had retained the services of an Indonesian law firm to serve as her legal counsel in accordance with Indonesian rules, the department added.
In August 2011, former President Benigno Aquino III submitted an appeal for clemency on behalf of Veloso to his Indonesian counterpart, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The latter replied months later that the case will be given careful consideration in accordance with Indonesia’s relevant laws.
When incumbent Indonesian President Joko Widodo was first elected in 2014, he declared war against drug trafficking and rejected all the clemency requests from drug convicts on death row. In January 2015, he rejected a batch of clemency appeals, including Veloso’s.
Widodo had invited Mr. Marcos to a state visit on the latter’s inauguration last July, and the President made his first-ever foreign trip as Chief Executive to the Philippines’ southern neighbor.
Cruz-Angeles said the President has yet to release an official statement on Veloso’s case but assured that processes are “moving.”
“If the President feels that the policy is in place and it’s time to make a pronouncement then, of course, he will do so. But for the moment, things are still moving. Since it was on Sept. 4 only that our foreign affairs (department) brought the matter up to their local counterpart in Indonesia, then there’s no decision yet that’s made,” she said.
Veloso was arrested upon her arrival in Yogyakarta for carrying 2.5 kilograms of heroin in her luggage.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines lauded the government’s action on Veloso’s case.
Bishop Ruperto Santos, CBCP Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People (ECMI) chairperson, said these actions taken by the DFA show that the government has not forgotten Veloso.
“That is a very encouraging and inspiring move from the DFA. This shows how much we care and are so concerned with Mary Jane Veloso. We won’t forget her as we continue to exhaust all means and make everything possible to bring her freely and safely home,” Santos said.
He said he continues to pray for Veloso.
“We support the kind and good deeds of our government officials, the DFA and the DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment). We are always constantly praying for MJ and continuously extending our help and assistance,” Santos added.