Those last-minute appeals to save Mary Jane must not be wasted.
(The Philippine Star) | Updated March 7, 2016 – 12:00am
In 2015, a last-minute appeal and the emergence of potentially new evidence spared overseas Filipino worker Mary Jane Veloso from execution in Indonesia for drug trafficking.
It was merely a stay of execution, however, and the penalty can still be carried out, as Veloso’s mother stressed last week. The mother spoke to journalists as she reminded the nation that time was running out for Philippine authorities to prove that her daughter had been recruited illegally and then duped into acting as a drug mule.
Veloso was arrested in April 2010 at the airport in Yogyakarta, Indonesia with 2.6 kilos of heroin in her luggage. Smuggling of heroin in quantities greater than five grams warrants the death penalty in Indonesia. Veloso was sentenced to death in October 2010.
Last January, Indonesian authorities said they were ready to carry out Veloso’s execution any time. Veloso was spared last year because her neighbor and recruiter, Maria Cristina Sergio, and partner Julius Lacanilao surrendered to police. Veloso said it was Sergio who had sent her to Malaysia and put her in touch with what appears to be an international drug trafficking ring, which sent her to Yogyakarta with the heroin-stuffed luggage.
Last month at their arraignment, Sergio and Lacanilao refused to enter a plea, prompting the Regional Trial Court in Nueva Ecija to enter a not guilty plea on their behalf on charges of large-scale illegal recruitment, human trafficking and syndicated estafa. Pre-trial has been set for this Wednesday. Their guilt must be established if Veloso is to be permanently spared from execution. Indonesian authorities, however, may not be able to wait for Philippine courts, notorious for snail-paced adjudication, to render final judgment on the recruitment and human trafficking case.
It took only a few months for the court in Yogyakarta to convict and sentence Veloso following her arrest. The Indonesians aren’t going to wait forever for the Philippine courts to do their job. Last year Indonesians themselves staged rallies in Jakarta to pressure their government to grant Veloso a reprieve. Those last-minute appeals to save Mary Jane must not be wasted.