Jokowi set to visit PH, as fate of Filipina on death row uncertain

JAKARTA, Indonesia – While the Philippines waits to hear whether Indonesia will grant a case review for a Filipina drug courier on death row, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is scheduled to meet with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III on Monday, February 9, in his first state visit to the neighboring country.

The Philippines has formally requested a judicial review of the case of Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, 30, who was sentenced to death in October 2010 for attempting to smuggle 2.6 kilograms of heroin into Indonesia from Malaysia in April 2010. (READ: PH seeks case review of Filipina on Indonesia's death row)

There’s no word yet on whether Aquino will bring up Veloso’s case with Jokowi, but a memorandum of understanding on combatting illegal drugs will be signed during the meeting between the two state leaders, Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Armanatha Nasir told reporters during a briefing on Thursday, February 5.

Jokowi has taken a hard line on executing drug convicts on death row, ignoring threats of diplomatic consequences from other countries and criticisms from human rights activists. He claims Indonesia is in an “emergency” drug situation, with about 50 deaths due to illegal drugs every day. (READ: Why Jokowi ordered the execution of drug traffickers)

In fact, earlier on Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott seemed resigned to the "bleak" prospects faced by two Australian citizens on death row, whose judicial review requests have been denied. (READ: Australia PM: I've done all I can for death row inmates in Indonesia)

The Philippines has abolished the death penalty, which Amnesty International says “does not work as a deterrent to crime.”

“It is deeply disturbing that drug convicts are at risk of execution. Drug-related offenses do not match the standards set out in international law, which only allow the death penalty for the ‘most serious crimes,'” Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said in a statement on December 5.

What will and won't be discussed

Also on the table for discussions between Aquino and Jokowi are migrant worker protection issues and trade, including the potential sale of Indonesian defense equipment.

“They will discuss trade and investments with a target of $10 billion per year by 2016,” Nasir said, double the current level of about $5 billion per year.

Not mentioned among the topics to be discussed, however, are maritime issues, which is also a cornerstone of Jokowi’s policies.

The Indonesian government has taken a hard line on illegal fishing, resorting to another controversial measure: blowing up and sinking foreign vessels caught illegally fishing in the country’s waters. (READ: Indonesia sinks 3 Vietnamese boats to stop illegal fishing)

Since the policy was implemented in December, at least 4 Philippine boats have already been sunk, including the 3 seen in this report from a local TV station. Two more captured in late January could also meet the same fate.

Jokowi’s Manila visit is the last leg of a 3-country tour that saw him and the first lady, Iriana, arrive in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday. Jokowi will also visit Brunei before heading to Manila. (READ: Jokowi in Malaysia on first bilateral trip amid racist ad row)

Jokowi is scheduled to visit the Rizal Park Monument on Monday morning, according to a copy of the itinerary seen by Rappler, and meet with Indonesian citizens after lunch before proceeding to Malacanang to meet with Aquino.

He will fly back to Jakarta on Monday evening. – with a report from ATA/Rappler.com