Jokowi on pleas for Mary Jane: Respect our laws

Paterno Esmaquel II
Jokowi on pleas for Mary Jane: Respect our laws
While President Joko Widodo says Indonesian laws 'allow for execution,' what he doesn't say is that his country's laws also provide for clemency

MANILA, Philippines – Indonesian President Joko Widodo urged the Philippines to respect his country’s laws, as Indonesia is set to execute Filipino national Mary Jane Veloso for drug smuggling.

“We will practice our constitution. The law does allow for execution, and I think other countries should respect Indonesian laws,” Widodo said in an interview aired by Philippine broadcast network ABS-CBN on Monday, April 20. 

Widodo also stressed that the Philippines is free to lodge an appeal, even as the Indonesian Supreme Court rejected Veloso’s request for a judicial review of her case. 

The Indonesian leader popularly known as Jokowi said: “Yes, if they want to undergo a judicial review, they can go ahead. We respect the legal process. Indonesia has the rule of law.”

While Widodo said Indonesian laws “allow for execution,” what he didn’t say is that his country’s laws also provide for clemency. (READ: #AnimatED: Mercy isn’t inconsistent with rule of law)

In January 2015, Widodo rejected a batch of clemency appeals that included Veloso’s.

In an editorial published Monday, Rappler pointed out: “Showing mercy is a presidential prerogative granted by the Indonesian Constitution. It was that same prerogative that Jokowi used in March when he signed a decree saying a man convicted of premeditated murder won’t face the firing squad anymore.”

Indonesia’s ‘fixation with death’

“What weakens the rule of law is inconsistent implementation. Such as courts deciding that someone like Veloso deserves to die even when she did not have any prior arrests or convictions, while ruling that someone like Indonesian citizen Srie Moetarini Evianti, who was convicted of the same crime as Veloso, deserves to live because she did not have any prior convictions,” the editorial said.

Rappler added: “What makes a country’s rule of law questionable is ignoring jurisprudence. Such as when a case review request is granted to a Thai national sentenced to death because she wasn’t given a proper translator, but a similar request from a Filipino national who also wasn’t given a proper translator is rejected.”

To begin with, Indonesia itself has also appealed for clemency for its nationals sentenced to death in other countries. This happened in the case of Siti Zainab, an Indonesian domestic worker in Saudi Arabia. 

The Saudi Arabian government executed Zainab on Tuesday, April 14, and Indonesia protested the beheading the next day. 

Journalist Rafki Hidayat, for his part, questioned Indonesia’s “fixation with death” for illegal drug traffickers. 

Like Veloso, a drug trafficking gang called the Bali Nine faces Indonesia’s death sentence.

Hidayat wrote in an analysis piece, “Drug dealers are no saints – that’s a given – they are criminals. But do they deserve the death penalty?”

He said: “If, by the president’s logic, sending drug dealers to death is the right way to tackle the drug crisis that claims so many lives, then what about the 43,000 Indonesians who die every year in motor vehicle accidents? Why hasn’t a “traffic crisis” been declared? Moreover, with some of the convicts already executed, where are the statistics showing that the executions have reduced drug distribution and consumption?” –

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at