In appealing to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to seek clemency for Mary Jane Veloso, an overseas worker from Nueva Ecija languishing in death row in Indonesia for smuggling heroin into that country, her father, Cesar, said that the two previous presidents were unable to help with the case.
This is false.
In a Sept. 4 interview on ABS-CBN News, the older Veloso said:
“Talagang pinaglalaban po namin ‘yan. Sana huwag naman niya po pababayaan dahil pangatlong presidente na po siya; ang dalawa walang nagawa. Ang pag-asa na lang namin, siya.”
(We are really fighting for that. We hope he doesn’t abandon the case because he is the third president; the previous two were unable to do anything. He’s our only hope now.)
Source: ABS-CBN News, Mary Jane Veloso’s father recounts family’s struggle due to her imprisonment, Sept. 4, 2022
In another interview the next day on DZMM TeleRadyo program SRO, Veloso claimed he was unaware of efforts made by former president Benigno Aquino III to save his daughter from the death sentence issued by an Indonesian court in 2010. He said:
“Pero hindi po namin nabalitaan na umapela po siya.”
(But we didn’t know that he sent an appeal.)
Source: ABS-CBN News, SRO | Teleradyo (5 September 2022), Sept. 5, 2022, watch from 59:51 to 59:56
Former president Rodrigo Duterte chose not to interfere with Indonesia’s judicial process, saying he would accept the country’s decision on Mary Jane’s case. However, the Aquino administration took steps to save the convicted Filipina from execution.
In a Sept. 4 tweet, former presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte wrote: “Doubtful that PNoy expected gratitude in return, but most certainly not lies. He broke protocol to get that reprieve for Mary Jane Veloso. Ask the Indonesian government.”
Hours before Mary Jane’s scheduled execution in April 2015, the late president made a last-minute phone call to Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and asked that Veloso be turned into a state witness against her recruiters, Ma. Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, who were said to be part of a drug-trafficking scheme. The two had surrendered to the police that same day.
Aquino initially wrote a request for clemency to former Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2011, a year after Mary Jane was sentenced to death.
A few days before Veloso’s scheduled execution on April 29, 2015, Aquino sent another letter to Indonesian President Joko Widodo, renewing his appeal for clemency. Aside from sending letters asking for clemency, the Philippine government also appealed twice for a judicial review of Veloso’s case.
Mary Jane was arrested, tried and sentenced to death in 2010 for alleged smuggling of 2.6 kilograms of heroin to Indonesia. She claimed she was duped by a trafficking gang into becoming a drug mule. After 12 years of judicial battle and appeals from OFW and rights groups, the Filipina maid and mother of two remains under threat of execution.
At the start of his administration, Duterte drew flak from Mary Jane’s supporters when an Indonesian newspaper published a story quoting Widodo as saying that “President Duterte has given the go-ahead to proceed with the execution.”
This was eventually clarified as a misquotation by then-foreign secretary Perfecto Yasay, Jr.
In a statement, Yasay said Duterte did not give the green light to the execution and only told Widodo that he respected Indonesia’s legal process and would abide by its final decision on the case.
In 2020, Sergio and Lacanilao were found guilty of illegal recruitment in a separate case. Mary Jane’s case, however, has been moving slowly, with the Court of Appeals blocking twice the taking of her deposition.
That same year, the Supreme Court (SC) upheld its October 2019 ruling allowing Mary Jane to testify against Sergio and Lacanilao through deposition by written interrogatories. Last March, the SC Special Third Division issued a resolution declining to act on the solicitor general’s request to issue new instructions for Mary Jane’s deposition.
On the sidelines of Marcos’s state visit to Indonesia last Sept. 4, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo had formally requested executive clemency for Mary Jane.
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ABS-CBN News, Mary Jane Veloso’s father recounts family’s struggle due to her imprisonment, Sept. 4, 2022.
ABS-CBN News, SRO | Teleradyo (5 September 2022), Sept. 5, 2022
Department of Foreign Affairs. ‘NO GREEN LIGHT BY DUTERTE ON VELOSO’ -YASAY. Sept. 12, 2016
Official Gazette, Departure Speech Of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, Sept. 5, 2016
Aquino ‘broke protocols’ to save Mary Jane Veloso
- Inquirer.net, Aquino in last ditch effort to save Mary Jane Veloso, April 28, 2015
- Rappler.com, Aquino ‘broke protocol’ to save Mary Jane Veloso, April 29, 2015
- ABS-CBN News, Palace: Aquino broke protocol to save Veloso, April 30, 2015
- Abi Valte official Twitter Account, Doubtful that PNoy expected…, Sept. 4, 2022
Alleged drug-traffickers Sergio and Lacanilao turned themselves in to authorities
- GMA News Online, Itinuturong recruiter umano ni Mary Jane Veloso, sumuko sa Nueva Ecija, April 28, 2015
- Inquirer.net, De Lima: Sergio, Lacanilao started as drug mules before turning recruiters, May 6, 2015
- Rappler.com, Mary Jane Veloso recruiters were once drug mules – DOJ, May 6, 2015
Aquino clemency letters to Widodo
- Rappler.com, Aquino to Jokowi: Grant Mary Jane clemency, April 21, 2015
- GMA News Online, PNoy seeks clemency anew for death convict Mary Jane Veloso, April 21, 2015
- Reuters, Philippines may seek clemency anew for drug convict in Indonesia, April 30, 2015
The Jakarta Post, Duterte has given the green light for Mary Jane’s execution: Jokowi, Sept. 12, 2016
Philippine News Agency, Indonesia’s court rejects 2nd appeal for Veloso –DFA, April 27, 2015
Philippine News Agency, Nueva Ecija court convicts Veloso recruiters in separate case, Jan. 30, 2020
CA blocked twice Veloso’s testimony
- ABS-CBN News, CA upholds ruling blocking Mary Jane Veloso testimony, June 8, 2018
- Rappler.com, CA again blocks Mary Jane Veloso’s testimony from jail in case vs recruiter, June 8, 2018
- BusinessWorld, CA upholds ruling blocking drug mule’s testimony against illegal recruiters, June 8, 2018
Supreme Court of the Philippines, SC Allows Deposition of Mary Jane Veloso Abroad, Oct.11, 2019
Supreme Court of the Philippines, G.R. No. 240053, March 21, 2022
Philippine News Agency, Press Sec. Trixie Angeles gives statement on Mary Jane Veloso case, Sept. 6, 2022
(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)