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While Philippine authorities acknowledge that the last-minute reprieve Mary Jane Veloso got last April 29 has not erased her death penalty – with an execution still a real risk – there’s a chance the Indonesian courts might consider lessening her penalty if they can “ferret out” significant evidence against a drug trafficking ring that the two ASEAN neighbors want to crush.

This ray of hope, albeit involving really tough legal work, emerged in recent separate interviews with an Indonesian embassy official, after Veloso – convicted of drug smuggling in Yogyakarta but who insists she was set up by an illegal recruiter who promised her a job as a maid – was spared execution past midnight Wednesday.

In an interview, Minister Counselor R. Toto Waspodo told News5 that no amount of demonstrations and rallies will change the decision of the court, and only their President can give clemency to any drug convict.

He added that the midnight decision of the Indonesian authorities to pull out Veloso minutes before she was to be shot by a firing squad rested mainly on the possibility of “new evidence” after “Sergio surfaced and surrendered to authorities.” He was referring to Veloso’s alleged recruiter Ma. Kristina Sergio, who sought protective police custody on Tuesday, citing threats to her life.

According to Waspodo, if new evidence will be ferreted out from Veloso herself, or from Sergio, the court may take that into consideration, which may lessen the penalty.

“If there is proof that Mary Jane is not the only one, or the only one responsible for the case, I think there will be new consideration that will lessen the penalty,” he said.

Still, Waspodo stressed that Veloso is not yet off the hook, though she can be used as witness.

In separate interview with CBCPNews, Waspodo said a key piece of evidence that could overturn Veloso’s conviction for allegedly smuggling 2.6 kilos of heroin into Indonesia could be provided by no other than her.

“From what I learned, Mary Jane Veloso will act as [a] witness and it is up to the court to decide what to do next,” Minister Counsellor R. Toto Waspodo told CBCP News in an exclusive interview at the Indonesian Embassy early Thursday afternoon.

He added that should there be “something significant” that Indonesian authorities may obtain from Veloso’s testimony, some consideration may be extended to her. Just hours before Veloso’s scheduled execution along with eight other drug-smuggling convicts, President Joko Widodo had called to an urgent meeting his attorney general and other officials, to tackle the possibility of using Veloso – as proposed by the Philippine government through President Aquino himself – to hunt and prosecute an international drug smuggling ring that apparently uses unwitting job recruits shuttling across Asia.

Aquino, before leaving the ASEAN Leaders’ meeting in Malaysia, had stressed that a joint effort by the Philippines and Indonesia against such a powerful drug ring, or “big fry,” spelled a more important interest than simply executing Veloso, a barely-schooled maid and single mother of two young boys.

Waspodo revealed in the interviews he expected the worst as he monitored the events at the home office on Tuesday night. However, his government received information that the alleged recruiter Christine Pasadilla, also known as Kristina Sergio, surfaced and gave herself up to police in Nueva Ecija. Pasadilla’s live-in partner, Julius Lacanilao, also sought police protection. The NBI has filed charges of illegal recruitment, estafa and human trafficking against the duo and an African-looking cohort, known only as “Ike,” who gave Veloso a brand-new traveling bag to put her clothes in before she flew to Indonesia from Malaysia in April 2010. The bag of heroin was cleverly sewn into the lining of the bag.

How long the reprieve will last, Waspodo said, will depend on the court handling the recruiter’s case.

On Thursday, DFA spokesman Charles Jose had said Philippine officials will meet with their Indonesian counterparts next week to discuss the terms of Veloso’s reprieve, as a way of levelling off each one’s expectations.

Told of the claim of Cesar Veloso (mary Jane’s father) that Sergio allegedly told him she regrets it was Mary Jane who got apprehended after previously having smuggled so much drugs into Indonesia, Waspodo said, “if the statement is right then it means a lot.” He hastened to add: “We have to be careful with the statement.”

Waspodo said they are interested in the details of the case because his country is serious in its fight against illegal drugs.

Asked if pardons are extended to death convicts, including foreign nationals, the counsellor said clemency is extended only by their president.

“It depends on our president,” he stressed.

Any evidence that will both exonerate Mary Jane and crush the drug syndicate is most welcome not to just Indonesia and the Philippines, but to the entire world.

Until those evidences surface however, her case, story and plight can only be sung along to this cover of a Filipino music classic.

(from Interaksyon & CBCP)

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