PH ambassador: Back-channel talks going on for Mary Jane

Jet Damazo-Santos

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PH ambassador: Back-channel talks going on for Mary Jane


But migrant worker activists are calling for a stronger Philippine government response to pressure Indonesia

CILACAP, Indonesia – Despite calls for a harsher response to Indonesia’s handling of Mary Jane Veloso’s case, the Philippine government maintains it will not issue threats of diplomatic consequences.    

However, Philippine Ambassador to Indonesia Maria Lumen Isleta, who is set to visit Mary Jane Veloso in Nusakambangan prison island on Monday, April 27, said the government is still doing everything it can to save her, including back-channel talks to get to Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

Mary Jane, who was sentenced to death in 2010 for attempting to smuggle 2.6 kilograms of heroin into Indonesia, could be executed anytime after 5 pm on Tuesday, April 28, once the required 72-hour execution notice is met.   

Call for Aquino to speak up

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, who is attending a regional summit in Malaysia on Monday, has said he would try to speak to Jokowi to seek clemency for Mary Jane again.

But Filipino activists have been calling on the government to do more. To start with, Migrante International said Aquino should speak publicly about Mary Jane.  

“At this point, Mary Jane’s family and Filipinos around the world need to hear from him personally and publicly that he is against the execution because it will take the life of an innocent Filipino,” Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson, said in a statement on Saturday.

Migrante also wants the government to issue diplomatic and economic threats, such as to pull out the Philippine embassy in Jakarta in protest, and suspend approval of new applications of Indonesian investments in the Philippines.

“This is to show Indonesia that going ahead with the execution would strain not only diplomatic but economic relations,” the statement added.

Do threats work?

The governments of Brazil and Netherlands recalled their ambassadors in Jakarta in response to the execution of their citizens in January, but both have since returned. Despite this, another Brazilian, Rodrigo Gularte, is included in the next batch of executions. 

There is also speculation that the Frenchman on death row, Serge Atlaoui, was not given a 72-hour notice because of the French government’s threats of damaged diplomatic ties and harsh words. The official reason given was Atlaoui’s pending legal appeal. 

“The eventual execution of Mr Atlaoui would be even more incomprehensible to the government and French people as, due to serious dysfunction in the Indonesian legal system, he did not benefit from his due rights,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a letter to his Indonesian counterpart, Retno Marsudi. 

However, the Australian government has issued similar threats and yet their two citizens on death row, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, were given 72-hour notices as well.  

The Philippine way

Isleta explained that threats were not the Philippine way. 

“We are non-hostile, we are not antagonistic to the Indonesian government. We work with them quietly, we make our appeals for their mercy and compassion,” Isleta. 

She added that back-channel talks were being done, led by Vice President Jejomar Binay, who appealed for Mary Jane in a meeting with Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla on April 22. (READ: PH to Indonesia: No threats, just humanitarian plea–

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