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Sunday, January 20, 2019

‘Keep praying for Mary Jane’

THE Archdiocese of Cebu continues to pray for Mary Jane Veloso, saying it hopes that the Filipina worker who has been convicted of drug smuggling in Indonesia will be spared from the death penalty for good.

Msgr. Joseph Tan, Cebu Archdiocesan media liaison officer, told reporters that that while there is a need for justice to prevail, there are more humanitarian ways, other than the death sentence, to impose penalties.

Tan made his comment after Indonesian authorities gave Veloso, 30, a last-minute reprieve just before she was to face a firing squad at dawn yesterday.

Indonesian Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo confirmed at a news conference that Veloso had been granted a stay of execution while the Philippines investigates her case. The woman who had recruited Veloso for a job abroad surrendered just hours before the scheduled execution.

Prasetyo said that the executions of eight others took place simultaneously at 12:35 a.m. by a 13-member firing squad. Medical teams confirmed their deaths three minutes later.

“The executions have been successfully implemented, perfectly,” Prasetyo said. “All worked, no misses,” he said of the deaths of two Australians, four Nigerians, a Brazilian and an Indonesian man.

Hours before the scheduled executions, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said he was saddened by Veloso’s plight and urged overseas Filipinos to observe the laws of the countries where they work.

“We are praying that it doesn’t (push through),” Palma told reporters last Tuesday night.

More help

The archbishop also urged the national government to give more assistance to overseas Filipino workers.

“Our overseas workers abroad are the sources of our revenue. But despite their contributions, it is unfortunate that not much is done to assist them,” Palma said.

Veloso, who hails from Nueva Ecija, was arrested in Indonesia five years ago after authorities found 2.6 kilograms of heroin in a suitcase supposedly given to her by someone who recruited her for a job as a domestic worker.

She was convicted of drug trafficking and was supposed to be executed after her appeal for judicial review was denied by the Indonesian Supreme Court last March 28.

President Benigno Aquino III reportedly managed a last-minute discussion of Veloso’s plight with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, in a summit with other Southeast Asian leaders last Monday.

Indonesia brushed aside last-minute appeals when it decided to push through with the execution of the eight other individuals.

Anger abroad

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that Australia will withdraw its ambassador from Jakarta in response to the executions of two Australians, Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31.

“These executions are both cruel and unnecessary,” Abbott told reporters.

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff said in a statement that the execution of a second Brazilian citizen in Indonesia this year “marks a serious event in the relations between the two countries.”

Brazil had asked for a stay of execution for Rodrigo Gularte, 42, on humanitarian grounds because he was schizophrenic.

Prasetyo dismissed concerns that Indonesia had done long-term damage to bilateral relations through the executions.

“It’s just a momentary reaction,” he said. “What we’re doing is carrying out court decisions.”

He said that the message was “do not try to smuggle drugs in Indonesia, because we will be harsh and firm against drug-related crimes.”

‘A miracle’

But Veloso’s mother, Celia, said that the stay of execution for her daughter was nothing short of a miracle.

Presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma thanked President Widodo for giving due consideration to the appeal of President Aquino. He said the reprieve provides an opportunity for Veloso’s testimony to expose how a criminal syndicate duped her into being an unwitting accomplice and courier in drug trafficking.

There were cheers from the more than 250 Veloso supporters who held a candlelight vigil outside the Indonesian Embassy in Manila.

Originally, 10 inmates were to be executed, but Frenchman Serge Atlaoui was excluded because he still had an outstanding court appeal against Jokowi’s rejection of his clemency application.

The Indonesian Government said that Atlaoui will face a firing squad alone if his appeal is rejected by the Administrative Court. (AP)

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