Although the first visit of the gaffe-prone Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to Indonesia last week proceeded smoothly, the bilateral ties between the two nations have been put to the test following a remark by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo saying that his counterpart had given the go-ahead for Veloso's execution.
Veloso was spared execution in April last year after a woman came forward in her home country to admit that she had duped Veloso into smuggling drugs to Indonesia. The Philippine authorities have since asked for her to testify as a witness in the ongoing trial of her alleged trafficker. Veloso was excluded from the list of convicts in a further round of executions in July.
Jokowi was quoted by Antara in Serang, Banten, on Monday as saying: "President Duterte, at that time [during the bilateral meeting], said [Indonesia could] press ahead if [she is] indeed to be executed." Jokowi further said that Attorney General M. Prasetyo would follow up with the legal process to execute Veloso.
Manila was quick to deny Jokowi's claim. Philippine Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay Jr. said Duterte did not give the go-ahead for Veloso's execution, but simply told "the Indonesian President that he respects their judicial process and will accept whatever the final decision they arrive at regarding her case". Veloso's execution, Yasay added, had been indefinitely postponed.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte only told Jokowi to "follow your own laws" and that "I will not interfere", as reported by a number of media outlets in the Philippines.
Before Monday's controversy, which became a trending topic on social media both in Indonesia and the Philippines, Duterte was tight-lipped regarding Veloso's fate, raising questions as to whether he would press ahead with his plan to plead with Jokowi for mercy for Veloso. Before making his trips to Jakarta and the ASEAN summit in Laos, Duterte had said he would respect Jokowi's decision and Indonesia's judicial system if his counterpart rejected his pleading.
Upon returning to the Philippines over the weekend, Duterte told local media that he could not divulge the details of his talks with Jokowi before speaking to the Veloso family.
Earlier, he told reporters in Jakarta immediately after the meeting with Jokowi that details from his conversation with the Indonesian President were not for public consumption.
Spat over Mary Jane
Jokowi has been widely criticized, at home and abroad, for launching a tough campaign of executing death row drug convicts. But Duterte has sparked an even greater international uproar for his much tougher stance on drug abusers and dealers.
Under his watch, extrajudicial killings of suspected drug dealers and abusers have taken place on a wide scale. Various media outlets have reported that more than 2,000 suspected drug abusers and dealers have been killed since Duterte launched a war on drugs after he was sworn into office on June 30.
Anis Hidayah from the NGO Migrant Care called on both Jokowi and Duterte to show compassion toward migrant workers in both countries, warning that they were prone to becoming victims of drug cartels.
"Mary Jane is only one of many cases of female migrant workers facing the death penalty for crimes they did not commit," she said. "There is also Merry Utami," Anis said, referring to an Indonesian woman who was spared execution last month.
Jokowi would also face difficulties in seeking to protect the lives of Indonesian migrant workers overseas if he ignored the rights of Veloso, warned Ani Veloso was arrested at Adisucipto Airport in Yogyakarta in April 2010. She was excluded from the list of the third round of executions prepared by the Attorney General's Office (AGO) in April, as legal procedures continue in a separate but related case in her country. Veloso was on the execution list last year but was granted a stay of execution because her alleged boss had been arrested in the Philippines, and the authorities there requested Indonesian assistance in pursuing the case.
Jokowi and Duterte Have Common Intention
Actually, both Jokowi and Duterte have a common intention to eradicate drugs threat over their youth community at each countries. Both Indonesia and Phillipines have a common problem to facing drug threat, so it's could be a normal if Jokowi as Indonesian President and Rodrigo Duterte as Phillipines President have bravery to combat drug cartels at each countries. One of strategy to combat drug cartels is through death penalty on drug convicts.
Recently, Mary Jane Veloso's case has been made as a political furor because Jokowi's statement as his quoted from Duterte's statement about Indonesia could press ahead if Mary Jane indeed to be executed. On Indonesian legal process, Mary Jane Veloso's case had been finished with judge decision Mary Jane Veloso is stated guilty about 2,6 Kg drugs which she carried out, so migrant workers from Phillipines will be executed in the next round of executions.
Meanwhile, all circles in Phillipines including former welter world boxing champion, Many "Pacman" Pacquiao had been supported Mary Jane Veloso. Pacman said Mary Jane Veloso didn't gulity on her case, so Indonesia should be released those Phillipine migrant workers.
For Duterte, Mary Jane Veloso's case could be a seriously problem at his country and in the context of billateral relationship with Indonesia. Duterte has been toughly to implement rigid laws on combatting against drug dealers in his country, so if Duterte will be defended Mary Jane Veloso, it will make drug dealers in Phillipines has been demanded the same treatment from him.
Another side in the contect of billateral relationship between Indonesia and Phillipines, Mary Jane Veloso's case has triggered a political furor in Indonesia and Phillipines. At the last minute, Mary Jane Veloso's could be proven on a seriously intention from Jokowi and Duterte to fullfil his promise to all out against drug cartels at each countries.
A political furor at these case should be ended if Phillipines government must appreciate whatever Indonesia law decision on her case.
A significant lesson from Mary Jane Veloso is all of drug cartels should be treatened as an international common enemies such as a terrorist group and a corruptor. To all an extraordinary crimes, a death penalty should be taken.
*) The writer is a graduate of Padjadjaran University Bandung (Unpad). Former Director of Mass Communication in Political and Democracy Analysis Institution, Jakarta who currently resides in Cirebon, West Java.