President Duterte met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo to talk about Filipinos incarcerated in their jails, including convicted drug mule Mary Jane Veloso.
Duterte told Widodo that the Philippines respects the laws of Indonesia on illegal fishing and drugs. Nevertheless, he would appeal for clemency for Filipinos detained in Indonesian jails.
The Philippine president was referring to the 105 Filipino fishermen who were captured by the Indonesian Navy, including six crew members of two supply ships which were not carrying any fishing gears.
Of course, Duterte’s appeal for clemency is believed to have included Veloso, who was found guilty of drug smuggling and sentenced to death by the Indonesian courts.
After Duterte’s bilateral meeting with Widodo in Jakarta, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. confirmed that the Indonesian government has “indefinitely deferred” the execution of Veloso.
Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol personally thanked Duterte for taking up the cases of the Filipino fishermen to the attention of the Indonesian president.
Piñol revealed that Duterte and Widodo signed a joint declaration of cooperation in countering piracy in the seas bordering the Philippines and Indonesia. Furthermore, they also agreed to help each other in the campaign against drugs.
However, controversy rocked the Duterte-Widodo meeting when news came out that the Philippine president gave his “go-ahead” for Veloso’s execution in Indonesia.
Malacañang clarified last Monday that Duterte told Widodo that he respected their judicial processes and would accept whatever final decision they would arrive at regarding her case.
Yasay still insisted that Veloso’s execution had been deferred. He also tagged the news article that Duterte gave the green light for Veloso’s execution as erroneous.
Veloso was supposed to be executed last year by firing squad but she was given a reprieve at the last minute by Widodo himself. This was after Manila reported that it got hold of Veloso’s recruiter who reportedly planted the heroin in Veloso’s baggage.
Until now, Veloso has claimed she was a victim of human trafficking. She vows innocence and blames her recruiter for tricking her into smuggling heroin into Indonesia.
Whatever appeal or effort Duterte may extend Veloso, the final decision rests on Widodo if he will consider the Filipina’s claims.
Filipinos, especially Veloso’s family, can only hope and pray for her safety and clemency.
* * *
SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email [email protected] or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column athttp://www.tempo.com.ph/category/opinion/firing-line/ (Robert B. Roque, Jr.)