The Philippine government has confirmed that it sought clemency for Mary Jane Veloso – the Filipina who has spent 12 years on death row in Indonesia for drug smuggling – during President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr’s recent official state visit to Indonesia. However, it was not Marcos himself who brought up her case.
Veloso has been on death row in Yogyakarta since 2010, when Indonesian authorities found 2.6 kilograms of heroin hidden in the seams of a suitcase she was carrying. But Veloso has always maintained her innocence, claiming she was tricked into smuggling the drugs into Indonesia by traffickers, who lured her with false promises of a job as a domestic worker overseas.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Enrique Manalo reportedly discussed Veloso’s case with his counterpart, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, on the sidelines of the Marcos administration’s visit on Sunday, the Office of the Press Secretary confirmed.
Citing the DFA’s statement, the Office of the Press Secretary said that Marsudi would consult with the Indonesian Ministry of Justice on Veloso’s case.
In the same statement, the DFA confirmed that Veloso was “in relatively good health” at the Wonosari Women’s Penitentiary in Yogyakarta.
The DFA added that it has continued providing Veloso with consular assistance since her arrest in 2010. Meanwhile, the Philippine embassy in Jakarta has also retained the services of an Indonesian law firm to serve as Veloso’s legal counsel.
Veloso, a domestic worker from Nueva Ecija, 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.
While the efforts of the administration to discuss Veloso’s case have been welcome, Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) advocacy groups have questioned why the matter wasn’t taken up by the president himself.
“We are disappointed because President Marcos Jr. himself should have been the one to raise the appeal for clemency for Mary Jane to his counterpart as one of the priority issues. This would have had a stronger impact. Instead, the President seemed to downgrade the issue by leaving it up to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to address on the sidelines,” Migrante International said in a statement.
Before Marcos Jr. left for Indonesia, Veloso’s parents wrote a letter to the president, asking him to bring their daughter back home.