Indonesia: Regardless of case in PH, Mary Jane will be punished

Natashya Gutierrez

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Indonesia: Regardless of case in PH, Mary Jane will be punished


'The fact is that she smuggled drugs to Indonesia, and she was caught red handed at the airport'

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia – Her life was spared in April 2015, but the Indonesian government on Tuesday, January 12, said Mary Jane Veloso – the 31-year-old Filipina who is on death row for allegedly smuggling drugs into the country – will still definitely be punished.

Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo told Rappler they have not yet decided when to execute Mary Jane, but they “are ready” if ever it is ordered.

He said however, that the government is still waiting for the ongoing case in the Philippines against Mary Jane’s recruiter Maria Cristina Sergio – although a guilty verdict will not automatically change her status of being on death row.

“We will look at the verdict, perhaps the verdict can be new evidence to appeal for clemency from the president,” he said. “But surely Mary Jane will not be free from punishment.”

He added, “The fact is that she smuggled drugs to Indonesia, and she was caught red handed at the airport.”

Urged whether the “punishment” means death, Prasetyo only said, “we’ll see.”

Prasetyo also said he had already asked his Philippine counterpart at the Department of Justice to give a deadline for the verdict, so a decision on her fate can be made in a timely manner. 

Mary Jane made global headlines last April when she was set to be executed by firing squad for allegedly smuggling 2.6 kilograms of heroin into the predominantly Muslim country. (READ: The story of Mary Jane Veloso, in her own words)

Veloso was granted an 11th hour reprieve by the Indonesian government due to a last minute plea by President Benigno Aquino III as well as the surrender of Sergio – whose case is ongoing in the Philippines.

Mary Jane maintains her innocence, saying she was framed by Sergio who told her there was a job waiting for her in Indonesia. She claims the suitcase she was carrying was gifted to her by Sergio.

No executions planned yet

Prasetyo’s statements come as Mary Jane’s family visited her in prison for her birthday, flying all the way from the Philippines. (READ: Family recounts Mary Jane visit: ‘She is a different person’)

Indonesia has staunchly defended its law to execute drug traffickers, especially after it put to death 7 foreigners by firing squad in April – a lineup which originally included Mary Jane.

Back then, Prasetyo said, “We are fighting a war against horrible drug crimes that threaten our nation’s survival.

“I would like to say that an execution is not a pleasant thing. It is not a fun job,” Prasetyo told reporters in Cilacap.

“But we must do it in order to save the nation from the danger of drugs. We are not making enemies of countries from where those executed came. What we are fighting against is drug-related crimes.”

He changed his tune slightly late last year, when he said executions are not the government’s current priority given the country’s poor economic conditions. But on Tuesday, Attorney General’s Office spokesman Amir Yanto told AFP that there was a possibility executions would resume in 2016, although none had been scheduled yet.

Indonesia has some of the world’s toughest anti-narcotics laws. It resumed executions in 2013 after a hiatus of several years and since President Joko Widodo took office, 14 drug convicts – mostly foreigners – have been executed.

Experts however have questioned the statistics used as basis on the national drug “emergency” the president has declared, while human rights groups have denounced what they call an unjust penalty. – with reports from AFP and Febriana Firdaus

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Natashya Gutierrez

Natashya is President of Rappler. Among the pioneers of Rappler, she is an award-winning multimedia journalist and was also former editor-in-chief of Vice News Asia-Pacific. Gutierrez was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2023.