Home / Health / Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte 'will not interfere' over execution of Mary Jane Veloso

Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte 'will not interfere' over execution of Mary Jane Veloso


Indonesian president Joko Widodo caused a storm of controversy on Monday when he appeared to indicate the Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte had given Indonesia the green light to execute Filipina maid Mary Jane Veloso.

Mr Duterte’s presidential spokesman sought to clarify reports, insisting there had been no endorsement and Mr Duterte had merely told Mr Joko to follow his own country’s laws.


Mary Jane Veloso given last-minute reprieve

Filipina Mary Jane Veloso narrowly avoids execution in Indonesia after her alleged recruiter turned herself in to police in the Philippines.

“Follow your own laws. I will not interfere,” is what Mr Duterte had actually said when he met Mr Joko in Jakarta last week, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told Philippines website GMA News Online.

The Department of Foreign Affairs in the Philippines later issued a statement saying that Mr Duterte had not given the “so-called green light” to the execution of Veloso.

Mary Jane Veloso was spared the firing squad last year.
Mary Jane Veloso was spared the firing squad last year. 

It said Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto R. Yasay stressed that her execution had been indefinitely deferred.

“Yasay clarified further that never did Duterte give the green light to the execution of Veloso other than to tell the Indonesian president that he respects their judicial processes and will accept whatever the final decision they will arrive at regarding her case,” the statement said.

Veloso was dramatically spared from the firing squad in 2015 after her alleged recruiter, Maria Kristina Sergio, handed herself in to police in Manila just hours before the scheduled execution.

At the time the former Philippines president Benigno Aquino had personally appealed to Indonesian President Joko Widodo to grant Veloso clemency, saying she could be a witness in prosecuting drug syndicates.

Maria Kristina Sergio, centre, who allegedly recruited Mary Jane Veloso to smuggle heroin.
Maria Kristina Sergio, centre, who allegedly recruited Mary Jane Veloso to smuggle heroin. Photo: AP

However Mr Joko told reporters Mr Duterte had given Indonesia the go-ahead to execute Veloso if it wanted to, according to a story published on the Indonesian Cabinet Secretariat’s own website.

Mr Duterte, known as “The Punisher” for his war on drugs, has overseen thousands of traffickers killed since he swept to power and has spoken in favour of reviving the death penalty to combat drugs in the Philippines.

Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte is known as "The Punisher".
Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte is known as “The Punisher”. Photo: AP

“I explained that Mary Jane brought some 2.6 kilograms of heroin and I explained about the execution postponement at that time,” Mr Joko said.

“President Duterte’s response was ‘Go ahead if (you) want to execute (her).”

Indonesian President Joko Widodo on a visit to the Philippines last year.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo on a visit to the Philippines last year. Photo: AP

Mr Joko said Attorney-General Muhammad Prasetyo was following the ongoing legal process in the Philippines for Veloso’s alleged recruiter.

The comments caused a flurry of panic. Mary Jane was a trending Twitter topic in Indonesia on Monday, with hashtags including #saveMaryJane.

“We demand an immediate explanation from President Duterte and Secretary Yasay, both duty-bound to defend the rights of Filipinos overseas, especially drug trafficking victims like Mary Jane,” said Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez on Facebook.

Veloso, who was arrested in Yogyakarta in 2010 after heroin was found in the lining of her suitcase, always maintained her innocence and insisted she was duped into smuggling the drugs.

The plight of the mother of two struck a chord in Indonesia, given many Indonesian domestic helpers face exploitation when they work overseas.

Just days before Veloso was due to be executed in April last year alongside Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan and six others, #MaryJane was the number two trending topic on Twitter in Indonesia.

On September 5, Rappler reported that Mr Duterte would ask for mercy for Veloso but would be willing to accept what Mr Joko decided.

“Well, I may just have to ask (Indonesian President Joko) Widodo in a most respectful and in very, very courteous way. And if my pleadings will fall on deaf ears, I am ready to accept it – for the simple reason I do not doubt the judicial system of Indonesia,” he said.

“But if President Widodo will deny it, still I would be grateful that she has been treated very well.”

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