Aquino to Indonesia: Make Mary Jane Veloso state witness

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – In a last-ditch effort to save Mary Jane Veloso, President Benigno Aquino III has proposed to the Indonesian government to make the Filipino death convict a state witness against the drug syndicate that reportedly victimized her.

Aquino, who is in Langkawi, Malaysia, for the 26th ASEAN Summit, told Philippine media that he relayed the proposal to Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi in a phone call on Tuesday, April 28.

“We presented that it seems to serve both of our interest that to keep her alive to be able to testify and it serves the ends of justice for both  our concerns,” he said.

Aquino told Marsudi that Veloso has become "very cooperative" regarding her case, response to Marsudi's question why the proposal was only raised then.

"We don’t have a witness to prove the allegations against these individuals. We discovered that she wasn’t cooperating initially, and she is now very cooperative, we have the opportunity in our case to get the necessary evidence to successfully prosecute the illegal recruiters," he said.

The Philippine leader added: "Absent her providing testimony, there’s a chance we will be able to catch up with them at some point, but she does present an opportunity right now to uncover all the participants, and start the process of bringing them to the bars of justice."

Aquino directed Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to get feedback on his proposal from Marsudi.

Indonesia has sentenced 30-year-old Veloso to death because of drug smuggling. Veloso's camp, however, argues that Sergio duped her into unknowingly smuggling 2.6 kilograms of heroin into Indonesia. (READ: The story of Mary Jane Veloso, in her own words)

Veloso is due to be executed anytime from 5 pm onwards on Tuesday, April 28. 

The latest development in the Philippines is that Veloso's recruiter, Maria Kristina Sergio, has surrendered to authorities. Sergio, along with two others, face illegal recruitment, human trafficking, and estafa charges. (READ: African, two others accused of trafficking Mary Jane)

'We're doing our best'

Prior the announcement of the Aquino's latest effort, Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Charles Jose said in a news briefing legal and diplomatic means to save Veloso "seem like they've been closed."

The Sleman district court in Indonesia on Monday, April 27, rejected the Philippines' second appeal to review Veloso's case. 

The Philippines saw the second appeal as stronger because it argues that Veloso is a victim of human trafficking. The Indonesian court, however, rejected this because Indonesian laws allow only one appeal.

Using a diplomatic approach, Aquino also spoke with Indonesian President Joko Widodo to appeal for Veloso at the sidelines of the ASEAN summit, but  Widodo rejected Aquino's appeal for clemency. (READ: Jokowi on Mary Jane: It's about the supremacy of law)

The DFA spokesman also pointed out that Veloso "was given due process, and her rights were upheld throughout this legal process." 

Jose said: "She was given every chance to defend herself. On the part of the government, we also did everything that we possibly could. Every step of the way, we were with Mary Jane starting from the court trial, and we appealed the decision of the trial court, and we further appealed to the Supreme Court. And then we utilized both the legal approach and the diplomatic approach."

He added that the Philippines recognizes Indonesia's sovereignty, and "it is within their sovereign rights to enforce and implement their laws." – with reports from Paterno Esmaquel II/Rappler.com