INDONESIAN President Joko Widodo said Monday that President Rodrigo Duterte had given him the green light to execute Filipina death row convict Mary Jane Veloso, who was sentenced to die 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 was quoted as saying.
“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 kg of heroin. I also told him about the delay in the execution during the meeting,” he added.
Citing the Indonesian state news agency Antara, the Post said Widodo had asked Duterte to immediately finish the legal processes involving Veloso’s human trafficking case so that her execution in Indonesia could be carried out.
Palace officials did not deny the report, but said the President had only told Widodo that the Philippines will not interfere in Indonesia’s legal processes.
Before leaving for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, Duterte had said he would try to intercede on Veloso’s behalf with Widodo “in a most respectful and in a very, very courteous way.”
“If my pleadings will fall on deaf ears, I am ready to accept it,” Duterte said in his hometown Davao City.
Veloso, who was arrested at the Adisucipto Airport in Yogyakarta in April 2010 for bringing illegal drugs into Indonesia, was among the nine foreigners scheduled for execution in 2015 but got a last-minute reprieve after the previous administration intervened.
The Aquino administration sought to convince Jakarta that Veloso was a victim of human trafficking and was turned into an unwitting drug mule by illegal recruiters connected to an international drug ring.
The Indonesian Attorney General’s Office, however, asked Philippine authorities to conclude the legal processes of Veloso’s human trafficking case so that her execution in Indonesia could be carried out.
“We only hope the Philippines could immediately and quickly complete her legal process there to give certainty,” Attorney General HM Prasetyo told Indonesian state news agency Antara.
“It is impossible for us to remain uncertain. You [media] must also help other parties who are against [the] death penalty to understand,” he said.
Upon his return to the country past midnight on Saturday, Duterte was quiet 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,” Duterte told reporters in Davao.
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella, however, said the President had told Widodo that the country will respect the Indonesian legal process.
He said Duterte told Widodo: “Follow your own laws. We will not interfere.”
Abella said Duterte did not say anything about Veloso’s execution.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay, on the other hand, said the Jakarta Post headline saying Duterte had given the green light for Veloso’s execution was “erroneous.”
Yasay gave credence, instead, to a later paragraph in the Post story which said: “Veloso was excluded indefinitely from the list of the third round of executions prepared by the Attorney General’s Office in April, as legal procedures continue in a separate but related case.”
In an earlier interview, Yasay said Veloso’s execution “had been deferred because she would be testifying in the case against her illegal recruiter.”
Yasay said Duterte never gave a green light, but merely said he respects Indonesia’s judicial processes and will accept whatever its final decision would be.
Yasay clarified further that never did Duterte give the green light to the execution of Veloso other than to tell the Veloso’s family wanted the Duterte administration to clear the air about her impeding execution.
“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,” Gary Martinez, Migrante International spokesman said.
Veloso’s family is hopeful that the Filipino domestic helper can be removed from the death row, but Indonesian Attorney General Prasetyo stressed that “the ruling has been legally binding” and that “all legal avenues have been exhausted.”
Her lawyers declined to comment until there is official information from Philippine and Indonesian governments.
Activists fear that Veloso, who has already been convicted in an Indonesian court, could yet be executed if the trial here against her recruiter is delayed, giving the impression that she was being kept alive to give testimony.
Her supporters want the Indonesian government to allow Veloso to fly home so she can testify in person in court and persuade Jakarta to spare her life.
Veloso, who fled Dubai after an attempted rape and moved to Indonesia through Malaysia to find work, says she was tricked by a trafficking gang to smuggle 2.6 kg of heroin.
Contrary to Yasay’s statements, an Indonesian source on Monday confirmed that Duterte had given Widodo the go-signal to execute Veloso.
Citing a transcript, the source said Widodo was quoted in an interview Monday morning that Duterte told him to “go ahead” with Veloso.
The Indonesian source who is privy to the diplomatic efforts, said: “Jokowi said, I explained to Duterte that Mary Jane brought 2.6 kilograms of heroin. The execution was delayed. Duterte said, go a head.”
In another statement posted on the Indonesian Cabinet Secretariat Website, Widodo said he had a discussion with Duterte on Veloso’s fate.
During the meeting with Duterte at the State Palace, Jakarta last week, Widodo said he explained about the delay in the execution of Veloso last May as there are pending legal process being conducted in the Philippines.
“President Duterte then said, please go ahead if you want to execute her,” Widodo said.
In October 2010, Veloso was sentenced to death by a panel of judges at the District Court of Sleman, Yogyakarta.
The source said Veloso will be executed at Nusakambangan Prison in Cilacap, but no date has been set.
Veloso has been spared twice following the presentation of a case in the Philippines that said she had been duped into smuggling heroin into Indonesia by a drug syndicate.
Last year, Mary Jane Veloso’s recruiters, Maria Kristina Sergio, admitted in a hearing at the Justice Department that she and her live-in partner Julius Lacanilao, worked for an international drug ring.