PH to Indonesia: No threats, just humanitarian plea

Jet Damazo-Santos
PH to Indonesia: No threats, just humanitarian plea
Indonesia has so far ignored all threats of diplomatic consequences from countries with citizens on its death row

JAKARTA, Indonesia – The Philippines will not follow other countries in threatening Indonesia with diplomatic consequences if it executes its citizen, Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso,  according to Vice President Jejomar Binay.

“No diplomatic threats, but this is an appeal for humanitarian consideration,” he said on Thursday night, April 23, in Jakarta after a gathering with the Filipino community.

The day before that, he personally appealed on behalf of the 30-year-old mother of two in a meeting with his counterpart, Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla.

But barely 36 hours later, Veloso – without notice to her lawyers or Philippine officials – was suddenly transferred to Nusakambangan prison island in Cilacap, Central Java, where executions are held.

Veloso, who was sentenced to death in 2010 for attempting to smuggle 2.6 kilograms of heroin from Malaysia into Indonesia, has always maintained she was tricked into bringing the suitcase with the drugs by the fellow Filipina who recruited her for a job in Kuala Lumpur. (READ: Charges filed vs Mary Jane’s alleged recruiter)

Lawyers on Friday rushed to file a second case review request for Veloso in a desperate attempt to delay what appears to be an imminent execution, backed by evidence from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) supporting her story. (READ: PH files ‘stronger’ 2nd appeal for Mary Jane Veloso)

But if the executions are carried out despite all this, what will the Philippine government response be?

“Of course we will be very frustrated,” said Binay, who is also Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers’ Concerns. He added that he told Kalla the Philippine government respected Indonesia’s laws. (#AnimatED: Mercy isn’t inconsistent with the rule of law)

“I merely ask that the penalty of death not be implemented on a woman, a single mother, and clearly an unwitting and unwilling victim of merciless drug trafficking syndicates,” he said in a letter handed to his counterpart.

Diplomatic threats ignored

Indonesia, however, has so far ignored all threats of diplomatic consequences, responding to them with a reminder to respect Indonesian laws. 

France on Thursday accused Indonesia of “serious dysfunction” in its legal system that led to Frenchman Serge Atlaoui being sentenced to death, and said his execution would be “incomprehensible.”

French President Francois Hollande warned Indonesia that executing Atlaoui would damage ties between the two nations. On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius summoned the Indonesian ambassador to discuss the case.

Among countries with citizens on death row, Australia has protested the most.  Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott even called Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to explain controversial statements linking his pleas for clemency for his nationals to Australia’s aid to Indonesia after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Jakarta responded by warning that threats were not part of diplomatic language. (READ: Australian PM criticized for Indonesia tsunami aid ‘reminder’)

“Politically, he (Jokowi) has understood that Indonesians want a firm leader, and he wants to show that he is a firm president, compared to his predecessor (Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono) who was known for his indecision,” said political analyst Yohanes Sulaiman.

In addition, the death penalty has considerable support in Indonesia among the elites and wider population. According to a poll conducted by the Indo Barometer agency among 1,200 people in March, more than 84% of those questioned were in favor of sentencing drug traffickers to death.

In any case, it is unlikely that France or Australia will impose any serious sanctions on Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

After the first batch of executions in January, Brazil and the Netherlands recalled their ambassadors in protest, though the diplomats came back after just a few weeks. – with a report from Agence France-Presse/

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