TIMELINE: The day Mary Jane Veloso was spared

Jet Damazo-Santos
TIMELINE: The day Mary Jane Veloso was spared


The timeline below covers the 17 hours between April 28 and April 29 that changed the fate of the 30-year-old mother of two

JAKARTA, Indonesia – With contradicting claims regarding what really happened when Mary Jane Veloso was miraculously granted an 11th-hour reprieve by Indonesia, Rappler has put together a detailed account of the events of that day. 

What did civil society and the government do? Did the government give up as had been claimed? Was it only the government who thought there was no more hope? Did Philippine embassy officials hide advanced knowledge of the reprieve from the Veloso sisters?   

The timeline below covers the 17 hours between April 28 and April 29 that changed the fate of the 30-year-old mother of two. Based on different sources both in Indonesia and the Philippines, the timeline shows how various efforts contributed to that last-minute stay of execution.   

The surrender

When the Veloso family entered Nusakambangan prison island on the morning of April 28, they were ready to say goodbye to Mary Jane. The previous night, both Indonesian and Philippine lawyers said they had already apologized to the family, and Migrante said they had already helped the family process the fact that Mary Jane would be executed. 

But while they were inside, with no access to their cellphones and news from the outside world, they didn’t know that the person allegedly responsible for Mary Jane’s fate would also trigger a series of events that would save her life that day.  

10:30 am (all time references are in GMT+8, Manila time): In Nueva Ecija, Maria Cristina Sergio surrenders to the provincial police.

11:00 am:  At the start of an informal news conference with the Philippine media in Langkawi, Malaysia, where he attended the 26th ASEAN Summit, President Benigno Aquino III reveals – off the record, at first – the government’s new plan to save Mary Jane. He says they have thought of a way to keep her alive. He plans to propose to the Indonesian government that Mary Jane be made a witness in the case against the 3 people charged in Manila – alleged recruiter Maria Kristina Sergio and live-in partner Julius Lacanilao, and a certain “Ike.” 

Aquino requests the media not to report the plan for the meantime, as Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario is still arranging the call to his Indonesian counterpart. 


Between 11:00 am – 12:00 pm: President Benigno Aquino III begins the news conference with the Philippine media at the end of his trip in Langkawi, Malaysia. He answers questions on the ASEAN Summit, the South China Sea dispute, and Mary Jane. In the middle of his response to the Mary Jane query, he excuses himself to take a phone call.


When he returns, he tells reporters that he called Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi to propose to the Indonesian government that Mary Jane be made a state witness against the drug syndicate that reportedly victimized her. No immediate response is received. 

12:30 pm:* In Manila, Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Charles Jose gives a news briefing saying legal and diplomatic means to save Veloso “seem like they’ve been closed.”

1:30 pm: In Jakarta, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo meets migrant worker and labor activists for May Day. The group includes Migrant Care executive director Anis Hidayah, who pleads for Mary Jane and tells the president about Sergio’s surrender. Jokowi doesn’t decide anything but calls for a special meeting on the executions with the attorney general and the National Narcotics Agency (BNN).

3 pm: Back in Cilacap, Veloso’s family, lawyers, and Philippine embassy and DFA officials emerge from Nusakambangan prison and find out about Sergio’s surrender for the first time.

3:30 pm: Presidential Palace journalists report that Indonesian Cabinet Secretary Andi Widjojanto said Jokowi was consulting with Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo about Veloso’s case. When asked if Sergio’s surrender could change Veloso’s fate, Widjojanto replied, “Depending on the results of our confirmation and the implications of it on the legal process.”

Three letters

According to the DFA’s timeline, Mary Jane’s most recent letter to Jokowi – given to the family the day before – was delivered to the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Indonesian president’s office during the day.  

DFA’s timeline also states that after Aquino and his delegation arrived in Manila from Malaysia on the afternoon of this day to the early morning of Wednesday, internal discussions continued to be held with the Indonesian government. During this time, a 4th letter of appeal from Aquino was submitted to Jokowi.

4 pm: In Cilacap, Philippine embassy Consul General Roberto Manalo tells Rappler that Philippine Justice Secretary Leila De Lima has been trying to call the Indonesian attorney general.

There’s a third letter – an “extremely urgent” letter from De Lima addressed to Prasetyo and the Indonesian justice minister – asking that Mary Jane’s execution be suspended so she case testify against Sergio, et al. The letter mentions the Philippines will submit a formal request for Mutual Legal Assistance in relation to the subject.

5 pm: Presidential Palace journalists report that Prasetyo said appeals for Mary Jane – that she can’t speak English and Bahasa Indonesia, and that she’s only a victim – were only alibis meant to delay the execution. “Don’t force us to cancel or postpone the executions. If we do, we will be perceived as weak,” he said before meeting Jokowi.

5:30-6 pm: Through the Indonesian National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), De Lima’s letter is e-mailed directly to a staff of Jokowi.

In Jakarta, Prasetyo emerges from the meeting with Jokowi and announces that the executions will continue, and will include Mary Jane. No mention of De Lima’s letter is made.

Indonesian lawyer Ismail Muhammad would later tell Rappler he believes the change in Indonesia’s decision took place after Jokowi received the letter later that evening. 

‘Execution will proceed’

Early evening: In Cilacap, Philippine Ambassador Maria Lumen Isleta meets with the Veloso family to plan for what they want to do in case the execution proceeds. Mary Jane requested her two sisters, Darling Veloso and Maritess Veloso-Laurente, to be on the island during the execution. The rest of the family decide to drive back to Jakarta after they receive word that the execution will proceed so that they can meet Mary Jane’s body when it arrives there in the morning. 

7:50 pm: According to Migrante’s timeline, lawyer Edre Olalia, in a text message, told supporters to “intensify further and make stronger and broader calls to pressure/appeal/implore Widodo to still reconsider up to the last moment.”

Migrante also states that Indonesian migrant and church workers released to the international public Prasetyo’s mobile number, calling on supporters to barrage him with text messages pleading for Mary Jane’s life

8:20 pm: Consul General Manalo receives the call from Yogyakarta High Prosecutor Sri Anggraeni Astuti telling them to meet at the prosecutor’s office, signaling the execution will proceed that night.

8:27 pm: Olalia sends out a message saying: “No more concrete and realistic expectation decision will change. Let’s brace for it.” He also apologizes to Mary Jane, her family, and all migrant workers. 

9 pm: Maritess, Darling, Manalo, and lawyer Ismail arrive at Nusakambangan prison island.

9:30 pm: Komnas Perempuan texts Ismail saying the execution is “final.”

The rest of the Veloso family, embassy officials, and Migrante International chairperson Connie Bragas-Regalado begin the drive back to Jakarta. 

The reprieve

There have been claims that Consul General Manalo and lawyer Ismail already knew of the reprieve earlier that evening but withheld the information from sisters Darling and Maritess, which meant they suffered thinking Mary Jane was among those executed. Rappler interviewed both Ismail and Manalo to verify what happened that evening.  

11:15 pm: On Nusakambangan, Maritess is told Mary Jane wants to talk to her, but only the Yogyakarta high prosecutor meets her. Maritess doesn’t understand what the prosecutor tells her because it’s in Bahasa Indonesia.

11:45 pm: Manalo recounts that they begin hearing chatter among prison guards on Nusakambangan about Mary Jane, but they couldn’t confirm what it was about. Manalo and Ismail leave the two sisters, Maritess and Darling, in the marquee where all other relatives are in order to try to find confirmation.

12:30 am: Yunarto Wijaya, the executive director of political consultancy Charta Politika, tweets that the execution of Mary Jane is reportedly postponed until there is a court decision regarding her recruiter. He doesn’t cite his source but tweets again that Jokowi himself asked the attorney general to delay her execution until there is a court decision from the Philippines on Sergio.


Rappler calls Ismail to ask if they have been informed about this delay. Ismail and Manalo both say no.

1:10 am: Indonesian TV stations report that convicts have left isolation cells and are being transported to execution venue.

Mary Jane would later tell her family and lawyers that she also left the isolation cell and was about to enter the car that would take her to the execution venue when prosecutors stopped her and told her of the reprieve.

1:27 am: Indonesia’s Metro TV reports that only 8 are to be executed. It says the execution of Mary Jane Veloso has been delayed but doesn’t cite a source. 

1:30 am: Rappler calls Ismail to ask again if they have confirmation of the delay of Mary Jane’s execution, and he says no. 

Shots are heard during the phone conversation. 

They see the news on Metro TV that only 8 were executed but that they still have no confimation Mary Jane is the one spared. Maritess says they saw Ismail and Manalo watching TV, and were told of the reports only 8 were executed, but that they weren’t sure if Mary Jane was the one spared.

Prison guards turn off the TV when they see them watching. 

1:37 am: Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo finally confirms on TV that Mary Jane’s execution has been delayed “because there was a last-minute plea from the Philippine president.”

1:45 am: The Veloso family convoy to Jakarta stops at a gas station to inform the family of the good news. Philippine embassy officials with the Veloso family convoy call Manalo to relay what happened. After that call, Manalo says he tries to look for an Indonesian official on Nusakambangan to directly confirm the news.   

2:30 am: Manalo finally finds an official on Nusakambangan to confirm the news. He relays this to Darling and Maritess. 

3 am: Ismail says a prosecutor tells them: “Congratulations, I think this is miracle. Mary Jane’s execution was cancelled.” They are told to take the next ferry back to Cilacap. – with reports from Paterno Esmaquel II/Rappler.com

*The DFA press briefing was at 12:30 pm Manila time. An earlier version of this article said it took place at 11:30 am, however that was based on Jakarta time, which is an hour behind Manila.

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