MANILA: The Philippine government is seeking clemency for a Filipina sentenced to death in a controversial case in Indonesia, the foreign affairs secretary said on Tuesday, ahead of the Indonesian president’s visit to Manila.

Mary Jane Veloso, a domestic helper from Nueva Ecija province, was arrested in 2010 for allegedly smuggling 2.6 kg of heroin from Malaysia into Indonesia. She denied the charge, saying she was tricked by a recruiter to bring a suitcase with the drugs hidden in its seams.

Veloso had been due to be executed by firing squad in 2015 after an Indonesian court convicted her of drug trafficking and sentenced her to death. But at the 11th hour, she was granted a stay of execution to stand as a witness in a human trafficking case against her recruiter in the Philippines.

“We’re working to see whether we can find a way in resolving the case, seeking clemency … I raised the issue and we’re taking steps to address it,” Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo told reporters during a joint press conference with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi.

“That’s always been our position to see whether they can grant clemency, that’s always been our position. Now it’s up to their government to decide on that.”

Marsudi is in Manila ahead of the arrival of President Joko Widodo who is scheduled to meet Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, Veloso will turn 39.

Migrante International, an alliance of organizations of migrant Filipinos and their families, has called on Marcos to bring up Veloso’s case with the Indonesian leader.

“Granting Mary Jane clemency and freedom would be a great gift to Filipino migrants and people. Mary Jane is a victim of human and drug trafficking. She has been in prison abroad since 2010 and has suffered more than enough,” the group said in a statement.

“Mary Jane’s story resonates with the Filipino migrants and people. Bringing her home would make many of us very happy … Mary Jane is a victim of joblessness in the Philippines and of unscrupulous individuals who take advantage of poor Filipinos who are desperate to find employment.”


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