MANILA, Philippines – Was President Rodrigo Duterte able to mention the case of convicted overseas Filipino worker Mary Jane Veloso to Indonesian President Joko Widodo?
While the two leaders agreed on security and defense cooperation at the start of the 50th Asean summit in Manila, it wasn’t clear if Duterte was able to talk about Veloso during his meeting with Widodo in Malacañang.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella could not yet confirm to media whether Duterte was able to raise Veloso’s issue during the chief executive’s Friday restricted meeting with the Indonesian leader as he had hoped to do so.
On Thursday, Duterte told reporters that it would be an “opportune time” for him to discuss Veloso’s case during his restricted meeting with Widodo. He said he would try to ask the Indonesian president if they could talk about Veloso’s case but he would no longer force the issue if Widodo refuses to discuss about it.
It will be the second year on Saturday, April 29, since Veloso got an 11th–hour reprieve from the Indonesian government so she could act as witness during the trial of Maria Cristina Sergio, her godsister and alleged recruiter, who was said to have tricked her into carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin in her luggage when she went to Indonesia in April 2010.
Last Wednesday, Veloso’s mother Celia went to Malacañang and asked Duterte to appeal to Widodo to spare her daughter’s life. Celia also pleaded to the Indonesian government to wait for the Philippines to finish proceedings on the case that Veloso had filed against her alleged recruiter.
But on Friday, it wasn’t clear whether Duterte was able to relay Celia’s plea to Widodo.
After meeting with Widodo, Duterte just said that he had told the Indonesian president that “I will honor what the laws are in their country.”
“We will not impose. We will not demand. Nothing…Tayo gano’n rin [And we are also like that],” he told reporters.
After their meeting, Duterte said he and Widodo had reaffirmed the importance of bilateral relations and resolved to sustain the momentum of all engagements, including those in trade and investment.
He likewise thanked Widodo for Indonesia’s support for the peace process in Mindanao.
“We recognized the need to address both traditional and emerging threats and expressed readiness to step up cooperation against terrorism, violent extremism, piracy at sea and transnational crimes, including the trade of illicit drugs,” Duterte said.
For his part, Widodo said he and Duterte had agreed to elevate cooperation in politics, economy, maritime security, and people-to-people contact, among other pacts.
“Regarding maritime limitation, we agreed to conclude the EEZ [exclusive economic zone) agreement ratification this year and encourage for an immediate conclusion of the continental shelf delineation,” said Widodo.
He was referring to the Indonesia’s Parliament’s ratification last April 27 of a landmark sea border agreement with the Philippines, which sets the EEZ boundaries between the two countries in the Mindanao and Celebes seas.
The new boundary was the first maritime border pact to be finalized between Jakarta and Manila.
On Friday, the Philippines and Indonesia also signed two agreements on agricultural cooperation and the establishment of a sea route between Davao and General Santos in Mindanao and Bitung in North Sulawesi.