MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella on Monday, September 12, clarified President Rodrigo Duterte's "actual" words to Indonesian President Joko Widodo on the case of Mary Jane Veloso.
"His actual statement and conversation with President Widodo went like this. He said, regarding Mary Jane Veloso, he said, 'Follow your own laws, I will not interfere.' End of statement," Abella said in a press conference shortly after news broke out on Widodo's statements regarding his one-on-one with the Philippine president last Friday, September 9.
WATCH: Presidential spox Abella on what #PresidentDuterte told Pres Widodo re Mary Jane Veloso @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/tszGRyuBNY — Pia Ranada (@piaranada) September 12, 2016
Here is what Widodo told reporters in Bahasa Indonesia after Eid prayers at the At-Tsauroh Mosque in Serang on Monday: "I have already spoken (to President Duterte) about Mary Jane's case. I said that Mary Jane brought 2.6 kilograms of heroin. And I also told him about the postponement of the execution. At that time, President Duterte said 'go ahead' if (Mary Jane) were to be executed."(READ: Jokowi: Duterte won't stop Mary Jane execution)
Abella clarified that Duterte gave "no endorsement." He stressed: "There was none, no categorical statement, there was no endorsement. He simply said, follow your own laws," said the spokesman.
Duterte, according to Abella, does not believe he was misinterpreted by Widodo.
"He doesnt believe any of that sort. He was simply clarifying what he said," said Abella.
Asked if Duterte was surprised at the news of his "greenlighting" the execution, Abella said, "I don't know if he was surprised but he certainly had a very quick answer."
Veloso, a single mother of two from the Philippines, has been sentenced to death in Indonesia for allegedly smuggling drugs into the country. She has maintained her innocence, insisting she was an unknowing drug mule.
Veloso was given a last-minute reprieve on April 29, 2015.
That day, the 8 other drug trafficking convicts scheduled to be executed with her were put to death on a prison island.
An exception was made for Veloso because her alleged recruiter surrendered, and Veloso may be able to testify on the case. Indonesia has said it would wait for the recruiter's trial to conclude in the Philippines before acting on Veloso's case, but emphasized she remains on death row.
Versions of what happened
Before his trip to Indonesia, Duterte had said he would plead for Veloso's life, but he also stressed he was ready to accept Indonesia's decision either way. (READ: Duterte on Mary Jane: I am ready to accept Indonesia's decision)
Shortly before Duterte returned to Manila from Jakarta, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr said the two leaders did not talk about Veloso. Indonesian minister of law and human rights Yasonna Laoly confirmed it at the time, saying "nothing at all was brought up about Mary Jane."
When Duterte was asked by media while he was in Indonesia if he did discuss the Veloso case with Jokowi, he was vague in his answer, only saying, "not for public consumption."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.