MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay on Monday, April 20, said he plans to meet with Indonesian President Joko Widodo to save 30-year-old Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipina on Indonesia's death row.
Referring to the Indonesian leader popularly known as Jokowi, Binay said, "I am hoping that we will be given the opportunity to personally appeal to His Excellency’s kind heart for the commutation of the sentence of Mary Jane."
"I intend to bring to His Excellency our people’s hope for compassion, given the circumstances surrounding the case," Binay added in a statement Monday. (READ: #AnimatED: Mercy isn't inconsistent with rule of law)
The Philippine Vice President said he will fly to Indonesia on Wednesday, April 22, to join the Asian-African Summit in the Indonesian city of Bandung. (READ: Asia, Africa to mark summit that forged post-colonial path)
A frontrunner in the 2016 presidential race, Binay is also the presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers' concerns. He has made similar appeals for other migrant Filipinos on the death row.
In his statement, Binay said he was sure Widodo understands it "is the responsibility of governments to come to the aid of their countrymen, especially those in difficult circumstances."
Indonesia itself on Wednesday, April 15, protested the beheading of an Indonesian domestic worker in Saudi Arabia.
Binay also pointed out that Veloso "was a victim."
He explained that Veloso's friend "took advantage of her trust when she asked Veloso to hand carry a luggage containing illegal drugs."
Philippines preparing 2nd appeal
Veloso, in fact, is a victim of human trafficking, the Philippine Interfaith Movement Against Human Trafficking (PIMAHT) said Wednesday, April 15.
"Coming from a poor peasant family, Mary Jane was desperate to provide a better life for her two sons and her parents. Thus, she became prey to the promise of employment as domestic worker in Malaysia in 2010 by a certain Maria Kristina P Sergio whom Mary Jane considered a friend being the partner of her godfather’s son," PIMAHT said in a statement.
"Once in Malaysia, she was told by Sergio that the job was already taken but a job was available in Indonesia, instead. Desperate for a job, she threw away all her hesitation and went to Indonesia. There, she found out that she was tricked into carrying a sizable amount of heroin in the luggage that Sergio bought for her," the group added.
Like PIMAHT, other religious groups have joined calls to save Veloso.
On Tuesday, April 14, Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas wrote his Indonesian counterpart, Jakarta Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, to help stop Veloso's execution.
These statements came as the the Indonesian Supreme Court rejected Veloso's request for the court to review her case. (READ: On death row: Indonesia's zeal for capital punishment)
Philippine Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan said the Philippine government is preparing a second appeal, "still hopeful that our plea to save Mary Jane will be heard this time."
"We appreciate the concern of all those who are working to save Mary Jane from execution, but whatever action we take now that is possible under our jurisdiction, like investigating the supposed principal of Mary Jane, a certain Kristina Sergio, and even filing a case against her if evidence warrants, may no longer result in a re-opening of the legal proceedings," Baraan said in a statement Friday, April 17.
"But we continue to exhaust every possible remedy, legal and diplomatic, even as we must accord respect to the legal processes of Indonesia." – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.