Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipina accused of smuggling drugs into Indonesia, has been spared from execution by the Indonesian government. Eight other drug convicts scheduled for execution, including two Australians, four Nigerians, a Brazilian, and an Indonesian were not spared. Indonesia has harsh punishments for drug crimes and resumed executions in 2013 after a five-year gap. Six have been executed so far this year.
In an interview on dZBB radio station in Manila, Veloso’s husband Michael thanked Indonesian President Joko Widodo for granting the stay of execution.
“Talagang may himala po palang dumating sa anak ko,” added Veloso’s mother Celia.
“We are relieved that the execution of Mary Jane Veloso was not carried out tonight,” said Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose early Wednesday in a briefing.
“The Lord has answered our prayers.”
A spokesman for Indonesia’s Attorney General’s Office said the execution of Veloso was postponed after Maria Kristina Sergio, the recruiter who allegedly tricked her into bringing a suitcase laden with 2.6 kilograms of heroin to Indonesia on April 2010, turned herself in to authorities.
In a text message to media, Tony Spontana, spokesman for Indonesia’s Attorney General, said: “There was a request from the Philippine president regarding the perpetrator who’s suspected of committing human trafficking and surrendered in the Philippines. MJ is needed for her testimony.”
Veloso’s lawyer Edre Olalia told dzBB that the execution was suspended because a complaint has been filed in the Philippines against those responsible for her plight.
The DFA said Veloso was brought back to her cell at Wirogunan Penitentiary in Yogyakarta.
The Jakarta Post reported that Veloso was escorted by the Mobile Brigade, a special operation force unit of the Indonesian police, during her transfer from Nusakambangan Island to Yogyakarta.
Malacañang expressed gratitude towards the Indonesian government led by Widodo for sparing Veloso from execution.
“The Philippine government thanks President Widodo and the Indonesian government for giving due consideration to President Aquino’s appeal that Mary Jane Veloso be given a reprieve,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement. Vice President Jejomar Binay acknowledged the stay of execution of Veloso was a result of prayers.
“This is the power of prayer at work. Huwag po natin itigil ang pagdarasal para kay Mary Jane. Dagdagan pa po natin ang ating panalangin na maisalba natin siya sa kamatayan,” Binay, also the presidential adviser on OFW affairs, said in a press statement.
Widodo had called for an emergency meeting with his officials to discuss the Veloso case after Sergio surfaced. Before that, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III proposed to the
Indonesian government that Veloso be turned into a witness to identify the criminal group that used her to transport illegal drugs.
“We presented [to Indonesia] that it seems to serve both of our interests to keep her [Veloso] alive to be able to testify and serve the ends of justice for both our concerns,” Aquino told reporters in Malaysia.
“She does present an opportunity right now to be able to uncover all the participants and start the process of bringing them to the bars of justice. Absent her, that becomes very difficult,” he added.
Earlier, Jakarta rejected last-ditch pleas from around the world for clemency to be granted the drug traffickers from Nigeria, Australia, Brazil and Indonesia, ordering their mass execution to proceed within hours.
The proposed death penalties were condemned by the United Nations, and have strained ties between Australia and Indonesia in particular. Hours before the expected executions, crowds gathered in cities across Australia to hold vigils for Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, holding placards and calling for Australia to respond strongly to its neighbour if the executions proceed.
Indonesian authorities granted Australian Chan’s final wish, which was to marry his Indonesian girlfriend at the prison. But they rebuffed last- minute appeals from Australia to save the lives of Sukumaran and Chan, who were arrested in 2005 as the ringleaders of a plot to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told ABC television earlier: “Should these executions proceed in the manner that I anticipate, of course, there will have to be consequences.”
An Indonesian firing squad went ahead and executed the eight convicted drug traffickers on April 29. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he was recalling the nation’s ambassador to Indonesia in protest against the execution of two Australian drug smugglers.