President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr landed in Indonesia yesterday, his first official overseas visit since winning the presidency in May. He is expected to discuss the usual diplomatic topics such as bilateral relations and investments during his three-day visit, but another topic many are urging him to bring up is Filipina death row prisoner Mary Jane Veloso.
Veloso has been on death row in Yogyakarta for 12 years after being convicted on drug trafficking charges. Yet she has always maintained her innocence and argued that the 2.6 kilograms of heroin found in the seams of her suitcase had been forced on her by traffickers, who tricked her with false promises of a job as a domestic worker overseas.
Veloso’s case sparked nationwide vigils in 2015 when she was scheduled to be executed by firing squad, but she was spared at the eleventh hour after then-President Benigno Aquino III made an appeal and informed Indonesian authorities that Veloso’s recruiters were under police custody. She technically remains on death row, although Indonesia has had an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty since 2016.
Women’s group Gabriela urged President Marcos to exhaust all means to “urgently free Mary Jane Veloso, a fellow Filipina whom the Philippine government has repeatedly failed in many regards — from being unable to provide decent job opportunities here in the country which forced her into the diaspora, to failing to bring her home to her family after she was victimized by illegal recruiters,” adding it was high time that Veloso be granted freedom and ensured justice.
However, Malacañang Palace has stayed mum on whether Veloso’s reprieve would be on the table for discussion between the two heads of state.
“For matters of this sensitive nature, the President will have to…We cannot say more than that. We cannot even guess as to why. Because it is of a such sensitive nature, then we proceed with deliberation, if we proceed at all. I am not saying that we’re proceeding with anything. But the President is aware of the issue. Beyond that, we cannot discuss,” Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said at a press briefing in Jakarta.