Duterte may visit Mary Jane Veloso in Indonesia – Palace

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte may visit Filipina drug convict Mary Jane Veloso in Indonesia, Malacañang said a week before the Chief Executive's scheduled trip to Southeast Asian countries.

"Given the opportunity, I think he will," said Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella during a press conference on Thursday, September 1, in response to questions.

Veloso, sentenced to death in Indonesia for drug trafficking, narrowly escaped execution in April 2015 after she was granted a last-minute reprieve following appeals from the Philippine government and the surrender of her recruiter who allegedly framed her.

Duterte is set to visit Indonesia from September 8 to 9, after he attends the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and related Summits in Laos.

The President himself referred to Veloso in a speech on Wednesday, August 31.

Referring to his upcoming trip to Indonesia, "Mayroon rin tayong preso doon marami, drugs, pati si [Mary Jane] Veloso. Ewan ko kung anong—I’m praying that I could do something for her," he said.

(We have lots of prisons there, drugs, also Veloso. I don't know if – I'm praying that I could do something for her.)

Veloso has been accused of trafficking drugs, a crime punishable by death in Indonesia.

Then President Benigno Aquino III had appealed for clemency for her twice. The Philippine government claimed Veloso was herself a victim of drug-trafficking, not a perpetrator.

Duterte himself had said he is a "hardliner" when it comes to drugs and has championed a controversial drug war in the Philippines.

He also favors the reinstatement of the death penalty in the country as part of the war on drugs, and crime, in general. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.