Weighing in on Mary Jane Veloso and the Indonesia executions

Disclaimer: I am no expert in any legalities or in anything that relates to this news, other than that I have heard of and read about the issue surrounding Mary Jane Veloso and the 8 other people in Indonesia’s death row. I am just voicing out my opinion in this post.

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The Philippines is rejoicing today, with the news that Mary Jane Veloso, convicted of drug trafficking in Indonesia in 2010 and is on death row, has been given temporary reprieve by the Indonesian government at the last minute. Social media has exploded, with posts and hashtags expressing joy that a countryman that has been spared from execution.

That, though, cannot be said of other countries, as the 8 others also convicted of drug trafficking — an Indonesian, 2 Australians, a Brazilian, and 4 Nigerians — were put to death by firing squad early this morning, Philippine time. Reports are that Brazil’s and Australia’s relations with Indonesia have soured because of this.

Back to Mary Jane, the postponement of her execution was because Indonesia has received reports that Mary Jane’s recruiter has surrendered to Philippine authorities and that her testimony is needed during the legal process. Her lawyers are hoping that this temporary reprieve may become permanent, once it has been established that she is innocent of drug trafficking and was duped to carry heroin in one of her bags by the recruiter and her cohorts.

Reading Mary Jane’s unedited narrative on Rappler, it may happen — if she truly is innocent. But we’ll have to wait for that.

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While I’m happy about the turn of events surrounding Mary Jane, I feel really bad for one of those in the death row, Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte. Yes, he may be a drug addict or a smuggler, but one thing to consider is that he has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Until the end, he believed that he was going home.

His was a truly sad story: because of his illness and addiction, he was easily targeted by drug cartels. When he was arrested, he was abandoned by his lawyer. Indonesian authorities have rejected medical opinion that he was mentally ill because the opinion did not come from a government doctor. And that Indonesia had no law that prevents them from executing convicts with such conditions.

He was put to death along with 7 others early this morning.

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Indonesia does have very tough laws for drug traffickers. Except for Mary Jane’s (and a Frenchman’s) situation, the government has shown no mercy to criminals involved in drugs, may they be locals or foreigners.

For us in the Philippines that currently has no death penalty, execution seems very cruel. The worst that could happen to convicted criminals here is a life sentence (extradition for foreigners?). Then again, it is in Indonesia’s law, and they abide by it, no matter what cost.

On one end, it’s admirable that, despite the international backlash, Indonesia stood their ground. On the other, it gave me chills that they could be so cruel to put criminals to death by firing squad.

What if these people were convicted wrongly, truly innocent, or not given a fair trial? Is it just to claim their lives?

But what if they were truly guilty? Would people still push for them to die the same way they clamored for clemency of these 9?

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Mary Jane’s situation is not something new. It’s sad, though, that there are those who are willing to trick people to commit crimes. And get away with it.

Hopefully, with the surrender of the alleged recruiter, those who deserve justice will get it.

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Just a thought: This would not have happened if Mary Jane had good opportunities here in the country and would not have to go overseas to work to support her family.

Looking at you, Philippine government.

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