CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 November 2018

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Execution seems okay by president

JAKARTA (SE): Following his debut appearance at the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit held in Vientiane, Laos, on September 5 and 6, the president of The Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, made his first visit as head of state to Indonesia.

Prior to his departure, hopes had been high that he would speak to the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, about a possible permanent stay of execution for the convicted drug mule, Mary Jane Veloso, who has been on death row since 2010, and possibly a chance to return home.

Bishop Rupert Santos, from the Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People, made an appeal to the government to pressure Jakarta on her behalf, saying, “It is our hope in the migrant ministry that our government continues with its appeal for her life.”

She has also been the subject of frequent rallies around the country to ask the Philippine government to lobby for her life.

However, immediately after a meeting between Duterte and Widodo, a press release from the Indonesian president said that Duterte had given him the green light to go ahead with the execution, saying, “I talked to President Duterte about the Mary Jane Veloso case and the fact that the woman brought 2.6 kilogrammes of heroin into the Indonesia. I also shared with him my thoughts on the possible cancellation of her execution.”

However, he added, “During our discussion, President Duterte told me that it is okay if the Indonesian authorities decide to go ahead with the execution.”

Duterte later said that he never said such a thing, only that he told Widodo “to follow his own laws. I will not interfere,” but he has cried wolf too often, claiming that he has been misunderstood or misinterpreted, and Widodo is a more credible source than the volatile Philippine president.

It appears that the irony of the situation won out, as it seems incongruous for a president, who has declared death for anyone even suspected of possibly being connected with drugs, to go to bat for a convicted drug mule in a foreign jurisdiction.

If she was in The Philippines, where accusation alone is proof of all guilt, he would have had her shot on sight and if, by any chance, she was allowed to return from Indonesia to The Philippines, consistency would demand that she be shot as she stepped off the plane.

Veloso is a 32-year-old migrant worker who always declared her innocence, saying that she had no idea that the bag she had been asked to carry contained drugs.

Her defence lawyers have produced new evidence that has been presented to the Indonesian authorities, which they believe proves her innocence.

The new revelations come from a woman who is set to appear in Manila as a witness in the trial of Maria Kristina Sergio, who is charged with having recruited a naive Veloso under false pretences and tricked her into carrying the drugs.

Indonesia has postponed her execution until the trial in Manila has run its course.

At the ASEAN summit, Duterte talked his tough talk on drugs and at least sparked interest from the head of Indonesia’s Anti-Narcotics Agency, Budi Waseso, who also seems to be in favour of killing everybody.

However, Widodo has stated that Indonesia will follow its rule of law and not indulge in the practices that Duterte is recommending.

Father Paulus Christian, from the Justice and Peace Commission, commented that it is not only immoral, but in all events it employs an already tried and failed method.

Daniel Awiga, from the Human Rights Working Group of Southeast Asia, pointed to the Suharto years, when armed mystery men (called Petrus) patrolled the country with a licence to kill suspected criminals (1983 to 1985), saying that it made no impact on the overall crime rate.

 

While observers of Philippine affairs are becoming more convinced that Duterte is using the tough line on drugs to cover up his passivity on other issues, Bonar Naipospos, from the Setara Institute for Democracy, said that he believes the Indonesian anti-narcotics chief just wants to give the impression that he is serious.

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