A multi-front and multi-prong campaign to save Mary Jane Veloso from what seemed like certain death in Indonesia paid off as she was given an eleventh-hour reprieve Tuesday night.
Eight other convicts were not so lucky. They were executed by firing squad early this morning at Besi prison on Nusakambangan Island. The Indonesian government announced shortly after that Veloso was not executed because her alleged recruiter had been arrested in the Philippines.
The Filipina mother of two has insisted that she did not know the 2.6 kilograms of heroin was stashed in the traveling bag lent to her by the recruiter.
But it took the Philippine government more than 5 years before it hastily filed charges against her suspected recruiter, who is also her stepsister.
That case was taken into consideration by the Indonesian government as it rushed through a late reprieve.
For now, it remains only a reprieve – she has not been granted clemency.
There is a long road ahead if the Indonesian government is to be convinced to grant her clemency and order her return to the Philippines so she could be united with her family.
The nation is grateful Indonesia heard the collective voices of Filipinos, many of whom see Veloso as a victim not only of international drug syndicate but also of human trafficking.
Those who organized the campaign to save her deserve praise. They kept the fire burning.
That cannot be said of the embassy officials in Indonesia who failed to put up a credible defense for the domestic helper.
That the Philippine embassy in Jakarta overlooked Indonesian and international laws on human trafficking which could have spared Mary Jane from conviction in the very first place needs to be closely scrutinized. It took Migrante lawyers to cite Indonesia’s ‘Law on the Eradication of the Criminal Act on Trafficking in Persons’ which, according to National Union of Progressive Lawyers (of the Philippines), contains a “non-punishment” clause for criminal acts committed by trafficked persons like Veloso.
Why did the Philippine embassy not contest the charge of drug trafficking thrown against her and fail to present her as a victim of human trafficking?
Again this is a fundamental question that the Philippine government will have to reassess when dealing with similar incidents in the future. It may be time for it to review all cases of Filipinos abroad convicted of similar offenses.
Mary Jane Veloso’s case was not the first. Neither will it be the last.