“FOLLOW your own laws, I will not interfere.”
That’s what President Duterte told Indonesian President Joko Widodo when the two leaders discussed on Friday the case of Mary Jane Veloso, according to presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella.
Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said in a statement that Veloso’s execution had been “indefinitely deferred.”
In a hastily called news conference on Monday, Abella talked about news reports that Mr. Duterte, during his 24-hour stop in Jakarta en route home from the Asean summit in Laos, had given the go-ahead for the execution of Veloso, who was sentenced to death for allegedly smuggling 2.6 kilograms of heroin in April 2010 in Indonesia.
The execution, handed down by an Indonesian court six months later, has been postponed upon intercession by Philippine authorities who wanted her to testify against her Filipino recruiter in jail in the Philippines.
“The President just informed us of his actual statement and the conversation with President Widodo went like this: He said, ‘Regarding Mary Jane Veloso, follow your own laws. I will not interfere,’” Abella told reporters.
Asked if the President’s remarks were tantamount to agreeing to Veloso’s execution, Abella said he did not want to make any interpretation of Mr. Duterte’s conversation with Widodo.
“There was no categorical statement, there was no endorsement. He simply said ‘follow your own laws,’” Abella said.
As to whether Mr. Duterte had sought clemency for Veloso, Abella said: “We’re not privy to those matters.”
“Basically this is a clarification of the statement being attributed to the President,” he said, referring to a report by the Indonesian news agency Antara that was published in the English-language Jakarta Post.
“President Duterte has given the go-ahead to proceed with the execution,” Widodo was quoted as saying on Monday by Antara in Serang, the provincial capital of Banten on the Indonesian island of Java.
According to Widodo, the legal process will be followed up by Attorney General M. Prasetyo, Antara said.
“I have explained to [Duterte] about Mary Jane’s situation and I told him that Mary Jane [has been found guilty] for carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin. I also told him about the delay in the execution during the meeting,” Widodo was quoted as saying on Monday by the news agency.
‘Please go ahead’
“President Duterte then said, ‘Please go ahead if you want to execute her,’” Widodo said, according to Antara.
The 31-year-old Veloso was arrested at Adisucipto Airport in Yogyakarta in April 2010.
She was excluded from the list of the third round of executions prepared by the Office of the Attorney General in April, as legal procedures continued in a separate but related case in the Philippines.
She was on the execution list last year but was granted a stay of execution because her alleged recruiter had been arrested in the Philippines.
‘No green light’
“President Duterte has not given the green light for Mary Jane’s execution,” Yasay said in his statement on Monday.
During their bilateral meeting, Yasay said Mr. Duterte told the Indonesian leader that “he respects their judicial processes and will accept whatever the final decision they will arrive at regarding the case.”
Yasay’s statement was likewise prompted by the Jakarta Post report under the headline “Duterte has given green light for Mary Jane’s execution.”
He also noted that the Jakarta Post mentioned that Veloso had been excluded indefinitely from the list of the third round of executions in April of convicted drug traffickers “as legal procedures continue in a separate but related case.”
Assistant Secretary Charles Jose, a spokesperson of the Department of Foreign Affairs, told the Inquirer that Veloso’s case in Indonesia depended on the prosecution of Veloso’s recruiters in the Philippines—Kristina Sergio and her partner, Julius Lacanilao.
He said Mr. Duterte did not press for pardon for Veloso since the parallel case against the recruiters was ongoing in the Philippines.
“That (appeal for pardon) will come after the trial of Mary Jane’s alleged recruiter, depending on the outcome of the trial,” Jose said in a text message.
Veloso’s parents and some members of the association of overseas Filipino workers, Migrante International, held a candle lighting at Plaza Miranda on Friday to seek pardon for their daughter who had been jailed in Indonesia for the last six years.
Josalee Deinla of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers helping Veloso said the group was withholding comment until the situation had been clarified.
“We believe there may be parsing or nuancing somewhere of apparently conflicting and confusing accounts,” said the union’s secretary general, Edre U. Olalia.
Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza said that if the Jakarta Post story were true, the lives of 88 Filipinos on death row, mostly in Malaysia and China, for various crimes were imperiled. “Not all of them are guilty,” he said by phone.
Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque said Mr. Duterte was just being true to his personal war against illegal drugs when he declared that he would not oppose Veloso’s execution.
“Veloso is clearly a victim of both trafficking and poverty. Her plight personifies the struggle of our poor overseas Filipino workers and their families,” he said. With reports from Vince F. Nonato, Nikko Dizon, Gil C. Cabacungan and Armand Galang, Inquirer Central Luzon