LABUAN BAJO, Indonesia– The freedom of Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina jailed for unwittingly bringing illegal drugs to Indonesia by a scheme of human traffickers, is still unlikely due to Indonesian law.
But this has not stopped the Philippine government from continuing to keep on trying to bring her home, according to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
“We haven’t really stopped. Ganito (It’s like this), this is the impasse, okay. The impasse is that we continue to ask for a commutation or even a pardon or just an extradition back to the Philippines. And that is constantly there,” Marcos said in an interview in Indonesia on Tuesday, May 9.
Marcos is in Labuan Bajo Indonesia to attend the 42nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit.
Marcos said that he and the government bring up the matter whenever there is a chance.
“We understand that she is convicted. We understand that the law in Indonesia is that way. But nonetheless, baka makahanap tayo ng paraan. Iuwi na lang namin ‘yan. Kami na magpaparusa sa kanya, whatever. Basta’t anyway to ask for clemency, to ask for grace when it comes to this,” Marcos said.
(Maybe we can find a way. We can just bring her home, we will be the ones to punish her, whatever. Any way to ask for clemency, to ask for grace when it comes to this)
In a statement, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers chairperson Edre Olalia said while the Philippine government is correct in continuously pushing for her clemency, it was “baffling” that Marcos would even suggest punishing Veloso in Manila.
“The charge for which she was convicted happened outside the Philippines. And her consistent position is that she was a victim of a frame-up by those who trafficked her and precisely why she is suing her local recruiters here. It does not work that way,” he said.
Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo in September 2022 asked Indonesia to grant Veloso executive clemency when he met Indonesia’s foreign minister Retno Marsudi on the sidelines of Marcos’ state visit to Indonesia.
In 2010, Veloso was arrested in Yogyakarta after unwittingly bringing with her a suitcase packed with over 2.6 kilograms of heroin. (READ: The story of Mary Jane Veloso, in her own words)
Within six months of her arrest, Veloso was sentenced to death.
She has requested for clemency before but was rejected in 2015. It was that rejection – and the threat of execution – that first turned Mary Jane Veloso into a household name in the Philippines.
The Philippine government, then led by the late Benigno Aquino III, held last-minute talks – with the late president even breaking protocol – to stop Veloso’s slated execution by firing squad. Aquino himself spoke to Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi in a bid to save Veloso’s life.
This was after Mary Jane’s recruiters, Ma. Cristina Sergio and her partner Julius Lacanilao, surrendered to the Philippine police. The two were reported to have links to drug trafficking, illegal recruitment, and fraud.
In January 2020, Sergio and Lacanilao were found guilty of large-scale illegal recruitment in a case distinct from Mary Jane’s, where three female victims testified that the two also recruited Mary Jane. For illegal recruitment, Sergio and Lacanilao were sentenced to life imprisonment and fined P2 million. They were also charged with human trafficking.
Veloso is currently detained at the Wonosari Women’s Penitentiary in Yogyakarta. – Rappler.com
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