On Thursday afternoon, Presidential Spokesman and Adviser on Human Rights Harry Roque told a television interview: “I don’t understand what exactly the President can do in this regard,” alluding to convicted drug mule Mary Jane Veloso’s plea for assistance to be allowed to testify remotely against her illegal overseas work recruiter.
“She’s detained in foreign soil because of breach of Indonesian laws. She continues to be alive despite being meted the death penalty … but there is such a thing as sovereignty, and the matter is completely in the hands of the Indonesian government, although, the Indonesian government, by not carrying out the punishment of death penalty, had shown clemency, on a daily basis,” Roque told the Malacañang Press Corps in a presser.
Veloso remains incarcerated on Indonesia’s death row, having been sentenced to death – for allegedly smuggling 2.6 kilograms of heroin through Yogyakarta airport, Indonesia, in April 2010.
Her execution had been held in abeyance by Indonesian authorities in response to a request by Philippine judicial officials because of the human trafficking case pending locally that could have a bearing on Veloso’s status as a migrant worker exploited by a syndicate to unknowingly act as a heroine courier.
Around the middle of December 2017, in an 18-page decision, the Court of Appeals granted the petition for certiorari and prohibition filed by the lawyers of Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, Veloso’s recruiters in the case, effectively gagging her from relating how she was duped into bringing illegal drugs to Indonesia that caused her arrest and imprisonment.
Based on Veloso’s account, she was enticed to work in Malaysia but was subsequently redirected toward Indonesia where she was handed luggage that, unbeknownst to her, contained heroin in a concealed compartment.
Around late April, 2015, while he was still a University of the Philippines law professor, Harry Roque’s voice was among the many who took up the cudgels for Mary Jane.
He had said the Philippine government could lodge a case before the International Court of Justice, citing a case where the United States failed to inform Mexico about the arrest of its citizens facing criminal charges, thus preventing Mexico from giving them proper representation.
Roque had also bashed the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for not hiring a private lawyer, who could have done better in defending Veloso, and finding it “strange” that the DFA relied on pro bono lawyers.
“They [DFA] acknowledged that they have a legal fund, but they allowed our national to rely on pro bono lawyer. It’s as if they did not want to spend the legal fund on the defense of the Filipina accused of something punishable by death,” he had said.
At that time, DFA did not question the capability of the Indonesian court-appointed pro bono lawyer.