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Mary Jane remains in limbo two years later

Mary Jane Veloso of Nueva Ecija has remained in death row in Indonesia after she was saved at the last moment by appeals from international groups as well as Philippine officials. She was due to be executed for drug trafficking along with two Australians, a Brazilian, four Nigerians, and an Indonesian in April, 2015. But just hours before dawn, she was led back to her cell while the eight other death convicts were executed by firing squad.

President Joko Widodo heeded appeals of those who said Mary Jane had been a victim of human traffickers and asked that she be spared so she could testify against them. Her case is pending to this day and she remains a death convict, unless she is granted a pardon by President Widodo.

In an interview last week, Widodo who had refused all requests for pardons in the last four years said he would consider a moratorium on executions, “but I must first ask my people.” He appeared to have made one concession from his firm stand on the death penalty – only drug convicts from countries that implement the death penalty were executed in Indonesia last year.

Mary Jane may have benefited from this concession last year but if the Philippine Congress revives the death penalty this year, it will no longer help her. The bill reinstating the death penalty for drug crimes was swiftly approved last March 7 by the House of Representatives and has now been sent to the Senate.

In this connection, Bishop Ruperto Santos, chairman of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Episcopal Mission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, said last January that If Congress enacts the death penalty bill into law and we start executing our own convicts, “we will lose any moral authority to ask for clemency for our Filipinos who have been sentenced to death abroad.”

Thus two years after she was saved from execution at the last minute in April, 2015, Mary Jane remains in limbo and her fate hinges largely on the decision of President Widodo and the Indonesian people whose views he will seek in a survey. It also hinges in part on our own government. If Congress revives the death penalty as sought by the new administration, it is not likely that she will be saved from execution much longer.