Philippines-Indonesia relations

OFW rights group: Why didn’t Marcos himself raise Veloso clemency to Jokowi?

Michelle Abad

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OFW rights group: Why didn’t Marcos himself raise Veloso clemency to Jokowi?

CONTINUED CALLS. Cesar Veloso, father of Mary Jane Veloso, who is convicted in Indonesia for drug trafficking, attends a UCCP fellowship to urge the government of the Philippines through the state visit of President Marcos in Indonesia for the clemency of her daughter, on September 5, 2022.

Jire Carreon/Rappler

'This would have had a stronger impact. Instead, the President seemed to downgrade the issue by leaving it up to the DFA to address on the sidelines,' says Migrante International

MANILA, Philippines – While welcoming the efforts of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s administration to seek clemency for long-detained overseas Filipino worker Mary Jane Veloso during a state visit to Indonesia, a migrant rights advocacy group expressed “disappointment” that the appeal was not made by the Philippine leader himself.

“We are disappointed because President Marcos Jr. himself should have been the one to raise the appeal for clemency for Mary Jane to his counterpart as one of the priority issues. This would have had a stronger impact. Instead, the President seemed to downgrade the issue by leaving it up to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to address on the sidelines,” said Migrante International following the announcement on Tuesday evening, September 6.

Marcos met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Monday, September 5. The Philippine leader had described the meeting as “very productive” and that they discussed topics he didn’t expect to touch on.

On Tuesday night, the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) announced that Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo asked his Indonesian counterpart, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, that Veloso be granted executive clemency.

The exchange happened on Sunday, September 4 – the first day of the Philippine delegation’s trip to Indonesia – on the sidelines of Marcos’ state visit, according to the OPS release.

In a separate statement, the DFA said Marsudi would consult the Indonesian Ministry of Justice. The agency also said it has been providing consular assistance since she was arrested in 2010.

Veloso has been detained for 12 years in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, following her conviction and death sentence for drug trafficking. Her execution was suspended in 2015 after the Philippine government made a last-minute plea to spare her life.

What you should know about the case of Mary Jane Veloso

What you should know about the case of Mary Jane Veloso

Ahead of Marcos’ state visit to Indonesia, Veloso’s parents wrote a letter to the President asking him to negotiate for clemency for their daughter, and to bring her back home.

‘Ball in the Philippines’ court’

Mark Castro, a Filipino community leader in Indonesia, said that the ball has been in the Philippine court, and it “has been slow to act” on Veloso’s case.

What prompted Veloso’s stay of execution in 2015 was the surrender of her alleged recruiter, Ma. Cristina Sergio, to Philippine authorities. Then-president Benigno Aquino III asked the Indonesian government to turn Veloso into a state witness against her recruiters, who are allegedly part of a drug trafficking syndicate.

Sergio and her partner Julius Lacanilao are still under trial for the alleged trafficking of Veloso. In January 2020, the two were found guilty of large-scale illegal recruitment in a case distinct from Veloso’s, where the victims testified that the two also recruited Veloso.

While the Philippine and Indonesian governments have agreed to allow Veloso to make her deposition from Yogyakarta, the deposition has yet to be taken.

“If and when the Philippine courts find Mary Jane Veloso a victim of human trafficking then it can petition the government of the Republic of Indonesia regarding the decision of our court…. There is no basis for clemency when our very own judiciary cannot render a decision on Mary Jane Veloso’s case,” Castro said in an interview with Rappler before the clemency appeal was announced.

The Filipino community in Indonesia, meanwhile, has tried to help Veloso in ways it could. It has held fundraisers, organized prayer vigils, and met with Veloso’s Filipino and Indonesian lawyers.

Rudy Celeste, founder of the Indonesia-based Alliance of Filipino Overseas Community, said that the community in the past also made a humanitarian compassionate appeal to the Indonesian government to release Veloso.

We hope makasama kami, at least ‘yung may maimbag, sa next step para kay Mary Jane. Hindi simple kasi ang case ni Mary Jane (We hope to be a part of, or at least contribute something, to the next step for Mary Jane. Mary Jane’s case is not simple),” said Celeste.

“If I am asked to contribute, I would be pleased. Not just me – behind me there are members of the Filipino community who have been here for 25 to 30 years, and even more who are residents in Indonesia. We are just waiting to be involved, to be called,” Celeste added in a mix of English and Filipino. –

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers the rights of women and children, migrant Filipinos, and labor.