JAKARTA, Indonesia (UPDATED) – The Philippine government has vowed to pursue “all possible” means to save convicted Filipina drug courier Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso despite the denial of its initial appeal for judicial review by Indonesia’s Supreme Court.
“We will continue to exhaust all possible diplomatic and legal means to save Mary Jane’s life, Philippine Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario said in a statement on Friday, March 27.
Del Rosario added, “We wish to assure her family that the Philippine Government is giving its full attention to this case and that it stands ready to provide them with all the assistance they may require.”
The senior Philippine official visited Veloso at the Wirogunan Penitentiary in Yogyakarta on March 24, in a high-level show of support for the death row convict. (READ: PH foreign minister visits Filipina on death row)
The DFA noted that since Veloso’s arrest in April 2010, the DFA, through the Philippine Embassy in Jakarta and the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA), “has been actively monitoring the case and extending all necessary assistance to Ms. Veloso and her family.”
Such assistance includes hiring a private lawyer to help Veloso to pursue a legal review of her case, the DFA said.
Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay also reiterated his call on Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to commute the death sentence of Veloso.
“I ask this, with the deepest bond of brotherhood and friendship of our peoples, a bond that I am confident will only grow stronger in the years to come,” he said in a statement to media on Friday.
Veloso, a 30-year-old single mother of two who left the Philippines to work as a maid in Kuala Lumpur, has been incarcerated in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, since 2010 – the year she was arrested and sentenced to death for attempting to smuggle 2.6 kilograms of heroin into the country.
But Indonesia’s Supreme Court on Thursday announced it had rejected Veloso’s request for a judicial review of her case, bringing her one step closer to execution by firing squad. (READ: Indonesian court rejects appeal of Filipina on death row)
Indonesia has so far ignored all such calls, despite mounting international pressure on Jokowi to halt the executions. Australia, in particular, which has two convicts on death row, has irked Indonesian officials with repeated appeals and threats of a diplomatic fallout should the executions proceed. (READ: Indonesians protest Abbott’s aid reminder, collect coins to repay Australia)
‘She’s a victim’
Binay, who is Presidential Adviser on overseas Filipino workers’ concerns, stressed in his statement that Veloso was not part of any organized drug syndicate and that she, too, was a victim.
Veloso has told her family and her lawyers she was tricked by a fellow Filipina – her godsister, the same Filipina who brought her to Kuala Lumpur – into bringing a suitcase that apparently had drugs hidden inside with her into Yogyakarta. She maintains she didn’t even know there were drugs hidden in the lining of the suitcase. (READ: A slow death for family of Filipina on Indonesia’s death row)
“She was unwittingly taken advantage of by a person whom she gave her complete trust and confidence when the latter asked her to hand carry a piece of luggage containing illegal drugs,” Binay said.
However, Veloso wasn’t able to properly defend herself during her first trial because the court only provided a student to translate the legal proceedings from Bahasa Indonesia to English. Veloso, who only made it to the first year of high school, can barely speak English.
Binay also wrote Jokowi earlier this month to “convey to (Widodo) the (Filipinos’) hope and prayer that the the Supreme Court of Indonesia will look kindly and with compassion on the circumstances surrounding the case of (Veloso).”
During Jokowi’s state visit to the Philippines on February 9, President Benigno Aquino III brought up Veloso’s case, according to a government source present at the meeting. But Jokowi has issued a blanket rejection of all clemency requests from drug convicts on death row, citing Indonesia’s drug emergency, despite mounting international pressure and calls for him to consider each case on its own merit.
Veloso’s lead lawyer in Indonesia, Agus Salim, told Rappler they will discuss possible next steps once they receive a copy of the Supreme Court decision.
“We have to see first if the rejection was based on administrative or substantive reasons,” he said. – Rappler.com
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