Trafficking defense eyed for Filipina on death row
MANILA, Philippines–Vice President Jejomar Binay met with his Indonesian counterpart on Wednesday and delivered an appeal for mercy for Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipino facing execution for drug trafficking in Indonesia, even as two Filipino lawyers who flew to Jakarta to help Veloso said new grounds had been found that may justify the reversal of her death sentence.
Lawyer Edre Olalia and a team from the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said an additional ground that should be highlighted in a second appeal for judicial review was that Veloso was “primarily a human trafficking victim in the first place, and therefore, must be protected.”
Binay met with Vice President Jusuf Kalla soon after he arrived in Jakarta on Wednesday. The two held talks in the Indonesian capital before Binay went to Bandung province to attend the April 22 to 24 Asian African Conference, Binay’s office said in a statement.
According to the statement, Binay gave Kalla a copy of President Aquino’s letter to Indonesian President Joko Widodo, appealing for clemency for Veloso, as well as a “humanitarian appeal” from Veloso’s family.
Veloso, a 30-year-old mother of two, was convicted of drug trafficking in 2010 and was sentenced to die by firing squad. She lost her first appeal in a judicial review of her case and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) considered filing a second appeal.
Binay is hoping to personally meet with Widodo while he is in Indonesia attending the conference that Widodo will be hosting.
He said he wanted to appeal to Widodo who also recently appealed to the King of Saudi Arabia not to execute an Indonesian domestic worker.
“I am certain His Excellency understands why we in government are doing all we can to save the life of our kababayan. It is the responsibility of governments to come to the aid of their countrymen, especially those in difficult circumstances,” he said.
Olalia and another NUPL lawyer, Minnie Lopez, have met with Veloso’s Indonesian lawyers and are helping prepare a new pleading to be presented to the Indonesian Supreme Court, citing new grounds that could justify the recall of her sentence.
“In accordance with international and parallel local laws, she must not be penalized for any alleged crime which was integral and in connection with such a human trafficking scheme, and must instead be repatriated back to the Philippines,” Olalia said in a statement from Jakarta.
Olalia flew to the Indonesian capital on Monday with Veloso’s father, Cesar and Lopez.
Olalia said the Filipino-Indonesian team was waiting for the Philippine Embassy to give them a copy of an affidavit that would be used as “newly discovered evidence” to bolster their appeal.
“The newly discovered evidence is the affidavit of Mary Jane that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency took when they came to Indonesia on March 29 [and] documented her being a victim of human trafficking,” he said.
The affidavit will be translated by the Philippine Embassy into Bahasa.
Olalia said Veloso’s Indonesian lawyers were “very receptive” to the human trafficking-drug trafficking connection.
Olalia explained that the Indonesian Supreme Court action on the second judicial review could come as early as one day after filing or as late as six months, “theoretically but also based on precedents.”
The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) of the United States has called on Indonesia to remove Veloso from death row, and grant her rights to due process, a proper trial and humane treatment.
“Bring her home,” said NLG president Azadeh Shahshahani in an April 21 letter to Widodo.—With Niña P. Calleja
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