Fate of Filipina on death row now with Indonesia's Supreme Court

Veloso, who comes from a poor family in Bulacan, north of Manila, only made it to the first year of high school. She was in Malaysia supposedly to work as a domestic helper, but her would-be employer failed to meet her, the court heard on Tuesday. With two children back home, she agreed to an offer to bring two suitcases to Indonesia.

She was only supposed to bring the two suitcases with her on board the April 25, 2010, AirAsia flight from Kuala Lumpur to Yogyakarta, and someone was supposed to pick her up at the airport to get them from her.

But that last part never happened, because she was arrested before exiting the airport. Concealed inside the suitcases were packs of heroin wrapped in aluminum foil estimated to have a street value of IDR6.5 billion at the time (about $500,000 today).

"Mary Jane is a victim of an international drug syndicate. She was manipulated and deceived by an acquaintance named Christine to bring 2.6 kg of heroin from Malaysia to Yogyakarta," Agus said in court.

Subsequent appeals have failed and, in January, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo rejected her clemency request along with all others from drug convicts as part of his new administration’s harsh stance on the death penalty.


Veloso's lawyers are confident the judicial review request will be granted because there is precedent. 

The judicial review request of Thai national Nonthanam M. Saichon, who was sentenced to death by the Tangerang District Court in 2002, was granted because of the translator issue.  

"(Saichon) tested positive for drugs, while Mary Jane did not," Agus said, adding that Saichon knew what she was doing as she had the drugs hidden in her underwear

Saichon's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

During a state visit to the Philippines on February 9, Jokowi and Philippines President Benigno Aquino III signed 4 agreements, including one to combat illegal drug-trafficking. Contrary to previous reports, Charge d'Affairs Roberto G. Manalo of the Philippine Embassy said Aquino brought up Veloso's case with Jokowi during the visit.

But Jokowi has issued a blanket rejection of all clemency requests from drug convicts on death row, citing Indonesia's drug emergency, despite mounting international pressure and calls for him to consider each case on its own merit. – with a report from Jet Damazo-Santos/Rappler.com

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story says Veloso graduated from high school. The Philippine embassy in Indonesia has clarified that she only made it to the first year of high school.