PHNO HEADLINE NEWS EARLY THIS PAST WEEK
(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports below)

RECLAMATION CHINA STYLE: MANILA RAISES ALARM OVER CHINESE 'AGGRESSIVENESS'


Apr. 21, 2015 at 12:01am - Reclamation, China style. Military chief General Gregorio Catapang points to aerial photos of Chinese construction over reefs and shoals in the Spratly archipelago during a press briefing in Manila on April 20, 2015. The Philippines expressed alarm about China’s reclamation activities in the disputed South China Sea as Manila launched war games with the United States to signal its intent to deter Chinese actions. AFP  Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang released what he said were satellite photos of recent Chinese construction over seven reefs and shoals in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea. “We have compelling reasons to raise our voice to tell the whole world the adverse effects of China’s aggressiveness,” Catapang told reporters, describing the reclamation and construction activities as “massive.”  Catapang said this was causing concern “not only because it would deter freedom of navigation, but also due to its possibility of military purposes”. READ MORE...

ALSO: Asean summit in KL to urge ‘self-restraint’ in South China Sea dispute—draft statement from a source


APRIL 23 ---An unidentified woman stands near the banners for ASEAN Summit at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Friday, April 24, 2015. The two-day summit starts on April 27. AP 
KUALA LUMPUR — A Southeast Asian summit will urge “self-restraint” in the South China Sea but avoid directly criticizing Chinese actions that have fanned tensions in the contested waters, a diplomatic source with knowledge of a draft statement said Friday. Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) gather in Malaysia on Monday for an annual meeting expected to include discussion of efforts underway by China to create islands on fragile coral reefs whose ownership is disputed. The actions have outraged the Philippines and added to regional concerns over Beijing’s assertion of sovereignty over virtually the entire South China Sea. The draft statement will stress the need for “exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities, not to resort to threat or use of force, and for the parties concerned to resolve their disputes/differences through peaceful means,” the diplomatic source told AFP. It also called for discussions with Beijing on a binding Code of Conduct (COC) governing behavior in the South China Sea “to be intensified, to ensure the expedition of the establishment of an effective COC,” the source said. Asean has pushed China for more than a decade to agree on a code of conduct. READ MORE...

ALSO IN DEATH ROW: Binay pleads with Indonesian VP Jusuf Kalla, meets Mary Jane Veloso kin


APRIL 24 ---Vice President Jejomar Binay asked his Indonesian counterpart, Vice President Jusuf Kalla, to show compassion and help spare the life of Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipino domestic worker was convicted of drug trafficking in 2010.
(CNN Philippines) — Vice President Jejomar Binay met with the kin of convicted drug mule Mary Jane Veloso in Jakarta on Thursday (April 23) after talking with his Indonesian counterpart — Vice President Jusuf Kalla — on Wednesday (April 22). The two appointments were in line with the Philippine government's agenda to make a final appeal on behalf of Veloso, who was arrested, tried, and sentenced to execution for drug trafficking in 2010. Binay previously confirmed his intention of personally asking Indonesian President Joko Widodo to spare Veloso's life before leaving for Indonesia. Binay reassured Caesar Veloso, Mary Jane's father, and the rest of their family that they were doing everything in their power to save the latter. READ MORE...

ALSO: Pinay on Indonesia death row moved to execution island


APRIL 25 ---Philippine death row prisoner Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso arrives in a court in Sleman, Indonesia, in March. Photo: AFP  AKARTA, Indonesia — A Filipino maid facing the death penalty after being convicted of drug trafficking was moved Friday to an island prison in Indonesia where the execution will take place. An armored personnel carrier and a car were seen arriving at a port Friday for the short trip to Nusakambangan island, and prison officials said Mary Jane Veloso was inside the car. Tony Spontana, a spokesman for the Indonesian attorney general, confirmed that Veloso had been moved. Veloso is among 10 drug smugglers whose planned executions last month were postponed due to last-minute appeals. The others are three Nigerian men, two Australian men, a man each from Brazil, Ghana, France and Indonesia. Indonesian officials have not said when the executions, by firing squad, will take place. Indonesia has vowed to carry through with the executions despite various appeals from the countries of the convicted. Veloso's case has caused a public outcry in the Philippines. She traveled to Indonesia in 2010 where her godsister reportedly told her a job as domestic worker awaited her. Her godsister allegedly provided the suitcase where the drugs were discovered when Veloso arrived at an airport in Java, Indonesia. READ MORE...

ALSO: ‘Pray for Mary Jane’
[Binay appeals after doomed Filipina’s transfer to Indonesia’s ‘Execution Island’]


APRIL 24 ---MERCY FOR MARY JANE — Activists from Gabriela stage a protest at the Embassy of Indonesia in Makati City yesterday to call for mercy for Mary Jane Veloso, who is set to be executed for drug trafficking, after receiving reports that the Filipina had already been transported to Indonesia’s prison island. (KJ Rosales)
Vice President Jejomar C. Binay yesterday appealed for prayers for doomed overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Mary Jane Veloso upon learning that Indonesian authorities have already transferred her to an island prison where executions in Indonesia take place. Veloso is among 10 drug convicts set to face firing squad on Nusakambangan prison island, Indonesia’s so-called “Execution Island” off the Javanese port of Cilacap. Indonesia has asked foreign embassies to send representatives to the maximum security prison for the expected execution, although an official 72-hour notice of execution has not been given yet, diplomats said yesterday. Aside from Veloso, among the convicted drug offenders set to face the firing squad are nationals from Australia, Brazil, France, and Nigeria. The case has strained relations between the governments of those nations and Indonesia. “It’s true, we have been told to be there on Saturday,” said a foreign embassy official who asked not to be identified because she was not authorized to speak to the media. NO EXECUTION ORDER YET .....READ MORE....

ALSO: Mary Jane Veloso’s mother: ‘Marami akong sisingilin sa ating presidente’


APRIL 24 ---Family of Mary Jane Veloso arrives in Jakarta (Reuters/Nyimas Laula)
The mother of Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina facing execution in Indonesia for drug smuggling, has accused President Benigno Aquino III of not doing enough to save her daughter's life. “Ang masasabi ko lang, president, hintayin mo ang paniningil ko kapag may mangyari sa anak ko,” Celia Veloso said in an interview on GMA News TV's “Balitanghali” on Friday. “Dahil hanggang ngayon, wala kang paramdam sa amin. Sasabihin ng mga tauhan mo na nagawa na ang lahat. Ngayong pahuli na, ngayon pa lang nila gagawin,” she added. Mary Jane—arrested at the Yogyakarta International Airport in April 2010 for carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin—was transferred to the prison island of Nusukambangan, where executions are held in Indonesia, on Friday morning. On the same day, the Philippine government filed its second appeal for a judicial review of the case with hopes that Mary Jane will be spared from the firing squad. In the “Balitanghali” interview, Celia, who is in Indonesia to visit Mary Jane, could not hide her anger at the President. “Marami po akong sisingilin sa ating presidente. Hanggang sa ngayon, eto, siguro president, masaya ka na ngayon dahil andito na sa isla yung anak ko,” she said. READ MORE...

ALSO RAY OF HOPE: Veloso to reunite with children, parents in Java execution island from 9am to 5pm
[“The court was not able to prove that Mary Jane was a drug courier. She was in possession of illegal drugs without her consent, knowledge and the intention of smuggling, selling them,” Olalia said. Since it was a case of possession of illegal drugs, the sentence should be life imprisonment. Another ground for a judicial review was the information–backed by the report of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency who went to visit Veloso earlier this month–that she was a victim of human trafficking.]


APRIL 25, SATURDAY 11 AM ---Brothers Mark Daniel, left, and Mark Darren Veloso, children of convicted drug trafficker Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, wait outside the Indonesian Embassy at the financial district of Makati city, east of Manila, Philippines as their grandmother Celia delivers an open letter addressed to Indonesian President Joko Widodo Wednesday, April 8, 2015. In the open letter, the Veloso family is asking for clemency to save the life of Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso who was convicted for drug trafficking in Indonesia and is sentenced to be executed after her appeal was rejected by the Indonesian Supreme Court March 26. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Filipina deathrow convict Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso will reunite with her children and parents Saturday after Indonesian authorities allowed her immediate family’s first visit to Nusakambangan, known as Indonesia’s execution island where inmates are about to face the 12-member firing squad. The family, lawyers, and embassy officials will travel from Yogyakarta to the port area where they will take a 15-minute boat trip to the island, Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers and one of the private counsels of Veloso presently in Indonesia. “This is a reunion of the family. We will give the family enough time to be with Mary Jane,” Olalia said in a phone interview The Indonesian government allowed Mary Jane’s children Mark Daniel and Mark Darren, her parents, and her sister, along with two lawyers and Philippines embassy officials to visit Veloso in the Central Java island from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Central Java time). READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Manila raises alarm over Chinese ‘aggressiveness’


Reclamation, China style. Military chief General Gregorio Catapang points to aerial photos of Chinese construction over reefs and shoals in the Spratly archipelago during a press briefing in Manila on April 20, 2015. The Philippines expressed alarm about China’s reclamation activities in the disputed South China Sea as Manila launched war games with the United States to signal its intent to deter Chinese actions. AFP

MANILA, APRIL 27, 2015 (MANILA STANDARD) By Sandy Araneta, Florante S. Solmerin | Apr. 21, 2015 at 12:01am - Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang released what he said were satellite photos of recent Chinese construction over seven reefs and shoals in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea.

“We have compelling reasons to raise our voice to tell the whole world the adverse effects of China’s aggressiveness,” Catapang told reporters, describing the reclamation and construction activities as “massive.”

Catapang said this was causing concern “not only because it would deter freedom of navigation, but also due to its possibility of military purposes”.

READ MORE...
China claims sovereignty over most of the resource-rich and strategically important sea, including areas close to other Asian nations, using vague demarcation lines that first appeared on Chinese maps in the 1940s.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims.

China has expanded its presence in disputed parts of the sea in recent years by embarking on giant reclamation work on reefs and islets, turning some into islands capable of hosting military aircraft landing strips.

President Benigno Aquino III said last week the world should fear China’s actions in the disputed sea, warning they could lead to military conflict.

In efforts to deter China, the militarily weak Philippines has encouraged longtime ally the United States to increase its presence on Filipino soil and coastal waters through expanded and more frequent war games.

This dovetails with US plans to re-build its military presence in the Philippines, where it had naval and air bases until the early 1990s.

The Balikatan war games are the biggest annual exercises between the allies, which signed a defense treaty in 1951 committing each to come to the others’ aid in the event of external aggression.

This year’s event involves about 12,000 troops, double last year’s number, and officials from both sides made unsubtle references to the South China Sea in opening ceremony speeches at military headquarters in Manila.

“I am sure that this Balikatan exercise will... likewise zero in on enhancing our combined capacity to undertake humanitarian assistance and disaster response as well as in dealing with maritime security challenges,” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg offered reassuring comments to the Philippines.

“We make no pretense that we are helping the Philippines as it builds a minimal credible defense and protects its maritime security,” Goldberg said.

“Let us be clear: the US is committed to its alliance and in the case of the Philippines, our oldest in the region, that commitment is, as President (Barack) Obama has said, is ironclad,” Goldberg added.

“At the same time, the US will defend the important principles of freedom of navigation in the air and the sea and the peaceful resolution of disputes through legal, diplomatic and peaceful means.”

The term “freedom of navigation” is loaded in the context of the South China Sea, which hosts roughly 40 percent of all the world’s shipping trade.

The United States has repeatedly expressed concern about the territorial rivalries threatening “freedom of navigation”, which angers China as it insists it will always allow ships to sail freely.

China also believes US complaints on the issue are a way for the superpower, which has no territorial claims in the sea, to become involved in the power struggle.

The war games, which last for 10 days, will be held from various military bases around the Philippines.

On Tuesday, marines will conduct beach landing exercises from a naval base facing the South China Sea just 220 kilometers from a Philippine-claimed shoal that China has controlled since 2012.

The is year’s Balikatan will also includes 70 Australian defense force personnel, Philippine officials said at the opening.

South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, East Timor and Vietnam also sent observers, they said.

The Palace said Monday that the military continues to patrol areas under dispute.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said these patrols were aimed at increasing the country’s “maritime domain awareness.”

He also confirmed Monday afternoon reports that Filipino fishermen were harassed in the Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal but could not say how many fishermen were involved.

Coloma said the Coast Guard has sent its report to the Foreign Affairs and National Defense departments.

He said the government is working to improve the Navy and the Coast Guard’s capacity to patrol the disputed waters and protect Filipino fishermen.

In a briefing in Camp Aguinaldo, Catapang said the country’s Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States could be used to help modernize the Armed Forces.

He said the annual Balikatan exercises under the treaty allow military personnel on both sides to share interoperability skills and techniques for territorial defense and anti-terrorism operations.

He declined to say what types of military equipment that Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the Philippines is seeking from the United States.

Catapang spoke at length about Chinese reclamation activities, noting that satellite maps showed that China was building airfields in the Kalayaan Island Group that could be used for long-range patrol operations.

“Now they are reclaiming Subi reef which is very proximate on Pagasa Island where we’ve there local government unit of KIG. This will challenge our Pagasa. They are also expanding construction on Mischief Reef which is very near our Ayungin Shoal. This will challenge Ayungin. They’re inviting friction which we’ve always been avoiding because we renounce war as a national policy,” Catapang said.

He added that Filipino troops stationed on the grounded Navy vessel the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin are now under threat by the Chinese Navy.

“Our Ayungin troops are safe as of this time. But for how long with the rate China has been doing reclamations? China is militarizing the area,” Catapang said.

Senator Francis Escudero on Monday asked the President to immediately convene the National Security Council to map out plans in the face of China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea.

“It might indeed be best to convene the NSC in order to bring everybody in the loop given that this is an issue facing our country and people regardless of political affiliation,” he said.

The NSC is the principal advisory body of the President on the proper coordination and integration of plans and policies affecting national security.

Also on Monday, the leftist League of Filipino Students said the US military will not help the Philippines counter China’s reclamation activities despite theEnhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and the ongoing Balikatan military exercises.

“Modernizing the AFP and training them to defend our sovereignty are nothing but lies and cover-ups to the US’ main agenda of bolstering its power in the Asia-Pacific,” said LFS national spokesperson Charisse Banez during a protest rally in front of the US embassy in Manila.

“Even the new military equipment requested by the military for maritime patrolling will be under the control of the US and not of the Philippines,” she added. – With Macon Ramos-Araneta, AFP


INQUUIRER

Asean summit to urge ‘self-restraint’ in South China Sea dispute—draft Agence France-Presse 4:41 PM | Friday, April 24th, 2015


An unidentified woman stands near the banners for ASEAN Summit at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Friday, April 24, 2015. The two-day summit starts on April 27. AP

KUALA LUMPUR — A Southeast Asian summit will urge “self-restraint” in the South China Sea but avoid directly criticizing Chinese actions that have fanned tensions in the contested waters, a diplomatic source with knowledge of a draft statement said Friday.

Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) gather in Malaysia on Monday for an annual meeting expected to include discussion of efforts underway by China to create islands on fragile coral reefs whose ownership is disputed.

The actions have outraged the Philippines and added to regional concerns over Beijing’s assertion of sovereignty over virtually the entire South China Sea.

The draft statement will stress the need for “exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities, not to resort to threat or use of force, and for the parties concerned to resolve their disputes/differences through peaceful means,” the diplomatic source told AFP.

It also called for discussions with Beijing on a binding Code of Conduct (COC) governing behavior in the South China Sea “to be intensified, to ensure the expedition of the establishment of an effective COC,” the source said.

Asean has pushed China for more than a decade to agree on a code of conduct.

READ MORE...
The code is expected to build on a non-binding 2002 pledge by countries with competing claims to the waters to respect freedom of navigation, resolve disputes peacefully and refrain from inflaming the situation.

The Philippines has expressed hopes the meeting in Malaysia will result in a strong expression of Asean concern. The draft statement could change based on discussions between leaders.

Beijing is widely believed to be dragging its feet on binding rules that could impede its freedom of action at sea.

Satellite photos emerged this month showed a flotilla of Chinese vessels dredging sand onto Mischief Reef, which is claimed by Manila.

The activities there and at other locations the spectre of a more permanent Chinese military and maritime presence far out into the South China Sea, from which it can project its growing might.

Asean members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei, as well as non-member Taiwan, also have overlapping claims in the area.

The draft statement also calls for parties to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), a reference that could anger Beijing.

The Philippines last year filed a formal plea under Unclos challenging China’s expansive claims.

China has refused to recognize the case, which is pending.

In an interview with AFP last week, President Benigno Aquino III said China’s activities “should engender fear for the rest of the world” and could threaten freedom of navigation.

China has hit back at all criticism, saying it was free to do as it pleased in waters it considers its own.

Asean has a history of treading carefully with China on the South China Sea due to Beijing’s immense trade and diplomatic leverage over individual members — and because not all 10 member-states have maritime claims.


CNN PHILIPPINES

Binay pleads with Indonesian VP Jusuf Kalla, meets Veloso kin By Alyosha J. Robillos, CNN Philippines Updated 20:04 PM PHT Thu, April 23, 2015


Vice President Jejomar Binay asked his Indonesian counterpart, Vice President Jusuf Kalla, to show compassion and help spare the life of Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipino domestic worker was convicted of drug trafficking in 2010.

(CNN Philippines) — Vice President Jejomar Binay met with the kin of convicted drug mule Mary Jane Veloso in Jakarta on Thursday (April 23) after talking with his Indonesian counterpart — Vice President Jusuf Kalla — on Wednesday (April 22).

The two appointments were in line with the Philippine government's agenda to make a final appeal on behalf of Veloso, who was arrested, tried, and sentenced to execution for drug trafficking in 2010.

Binay previously confirmed his intention of personally asking Indonesian President Joko Widodo to spare Veloso's life before leaving for Indonesia.

Related: Binay vows to appeal against Veloso’s execution to Widodo

Binay reassured Caesar Veloso, Mary Jane's father, and the rest of their family that they were doing everything in their power to save the latter.

READ MORE...
He also noted that letters of appeal from President Benigno Aquino III and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario were already handed over to the Indonesian government.


Vice President Jejomar Binay, who concurrently serves as the presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers’ concerns, meets with the Veloso family and their legal counsel in Jakarta, Indonesia.

To strengthen the Philippines' appeal, Binay asked Vice President Kalla for his and his people's compassion.

While Binay told Kalla that the Philippines regards the Indonesian legal system with utmost respect, he also stressed Veloso's innocence.

Mary Jane was a first-time traveler to Indonesia and is certainly not part of any drug syndicate, Binay said.

He also reminded Kalla that President Widodo himself had recently appealed to the king of Saudi Arabia to reconsider the execution of an Indonesian domestic worker.

“I am certain His Excellency understands why we in government are doing all we can to save the life of our kababayan. It is the responsibility of governments to come to the aid of their countrymen, especially those in difficult circumstances,” Binay said.


Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla intently listens to Vice President Jejomar Binay as he relays his personal appeal against the death sentence of convicted drug mule Mary Jane Veloso.

According to a CNN report, Saudi Arabia executed two Indonesian maids last week.

Related: Saudi Arabia executes second Indonesian maid in one week

Binay, who is also the presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers’ concerns, gave Kalla a copy of President Aquino's written appeal to President Widodo, along with a humanitarian appeal from the Veloso family.

Veloso is currently detained at the Wirogunan Penitentiary in Yogyakarta. There is no news yet as to when her execution will take place.

Related: No weekend execution for OFW in Indonesia

Binay, on the other hand, is in Indonesia to attend the Asian-African Conference 2015. According to his office, he gave a speech on Thursday.


PHILSTAR

Pinay on Indonesia death row moved to execution island (Associated Press) | Updated April 24, 2015 - 10:37am


Police officers stand guard as a detention car believed to be carrying Filipino woman on death row for drug offences Mary Jane Veloso arrives at Wijayapura ferry port to cross to the prison island of Nusakambangan in Cilacap, Central Java, Indonesia, early Friday, April 24, 2015. Veloso is among foreign drug convicts who are facing imminent execution despite international appeals for clemency. AP Photo/Wagino

JAKARTA, Indonesia — A Filipino maid facing the death penalty after being convicted of drug trafficking was moved Friday to an island prison in Indonesia where the execution will take place.

An armored personnel carrier and a car were seen arriving at a port Friday for the short trip to Nusakambangan island, and prison officials said Mary Jane Veloso was inside the car. Tony Spontana, a spokesman for the Indonesian attorney general, confirmed that Veloso had been moved.

Veloso is among 10 drug smugglers whose planned executions last month were postponed due to last-minute appeals. The others are three Nigerian men, two Australian men, a man each from Brazil, Ghana, France and Indonesia.

Indonesian officials have not said when the executions, by firing squad, will take place. Indonesia has vowed to carry through with the executions despite various appeals from the countries of the convicted.

Veloso's case has caused a public outcry in the Philippines. She traveled to Indonesia in 2010 where her godsister reportedly told her a job as domestic worker awaited her. Her godsister allegedly provided the suitcase where the drugs were discovered when Veloso arrived at an airport in Java, Indonesia.

READ MORE...
Her move to the island prison comes after Indonesia's Supreme Court earlier this week turned down the final appeals by prisoners from France and Ghana.

The appeals for judicial review by Serge Areski Atlaoui of France and Martin Anderson of Ghana were rejected by Indonesia's highest court in closed-door hearings Tuesday, said Suhadi, the court spokesman and a member of the three-judge panel.

Appeals have been exhausted for all but one of the 10 — Raheem Agbaje Salame of Nigeria, who is awaiting the outcome of his request for a judicial review.

The planned executions have soured relations between Indonesia and other countries. President Joko Widodo has vowed not to grant mercy to drug offenders because Indonesia is suffering a "drug emergency."

In Paris, French President Francois Hollande urged Indonesian authorities to grant clemency to Atlaoui, telling a news conference that executing Atlaoui "would be damaging for the relations we want to have with Indonesia."

Jakarta executed six drug convicts, including five foreigners, in January, brushing aside last-minute appeals from Brazil and the Netherlands. More than 130 people are on death row in Indonesia, including 57 drug convicts.


MANILA BULLETIN

‘Pray for Mary Jane’  April 25, 2015


MERCY FOR MARY JANE — Activists from Gabriela stage a protest at the Embassy of Indonesia in Makati City yesterday to call for mercy for Mary Jane Veloso, who is set to be executed for drug trafficking, after receiving reports that the Filipina had already been transported to Indonesia’s prison island. (KJ Rosales)


Binay
appeals after doomed Filipina’s transfer to Indonesia’s ‘Execution Island’

Vice President Jejomar C. Binay yesterday appealed for prayers for doomed overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Mary Jane Veloso upon learning that Indonesian authorities have already transferred her to an island prison where executions in Indonesia take place.

Veloso is among 10 drug convicts set to face firing squad on Nusakambangan prison island, Indonesia’s so-called “Execution Island” off the Javanese port of Cilacap.

Indonesia has asked foreign embassies to send representatives to the maximum security prison for the expected execution, although an official 72-hour notice of execution has not been given yet, diplomats said yesterday.

Aside from Veloso, among the convicted drug offenders set to face the firing squad are nationals from Australia, Brazil, France, and Nigeria. The case has strained relations between the governments of those nations and Indonesia.

“It’s true, we have been told to be there on Saturday,” said a foreign embassy official who asked not to be identified because she was not authorized to speak to the media.

NO EXECUTION ORDER YET

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“We still don’t know when the actual date of execution will happen but we expect that it will be in days.”

A police spokesman said orders to prepare the firing squad had not yet come from the Attorney General’s Office.

Veloso and the 10 other drug convicts were transferred early Friday morning from the Wirogunan Penitentiary in Yogyakarta.

“I urge everyone to include Mary Jane and her family in their prayers. Let us pray that the Indonesian government will heed our appeal for the commutation of Mary Jane’s sentence,” Binay said in a statement released by his office in Manila yesterday.

Last Wednesday, Binay made a last-ditched effort to save the life of Veloso by holding a bilateral meeting with Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla. Binay, the Presidential Adviser on OFW Concerns, sought the compassion of his Indonesian counterpart to spare the life of Veloso and commute her death sentence. He was expected to make a final plea to President Joko Widodo at a ceremony yesterday.

Veloso, 30, a mother of two, was sentenced to death by the Indonesian Supreme Court after she was arrested at the Yogyakarta airport in April, 2010, for carrying 2.6 kilograms (5.73 pounds) of heroin on a flight from Malaysia.

Binay met with Veloso’s father Cesar and sister Marites in Jakarta Thursday afternoon to assure them that the Philippine government “is doing everything” to save the life of their kin.

The Vice President, who is currently attending the Asian-African Summit, informed Veloso’s kin that he made a humanitarian appeal to the Indonesian government to commute her sentence.

With Veloso’s transfer to the execution island, private and government hired lawyers scrambled to obtain another lease on the doomed OFW’s life by filing a second appeal for judicial review of her case.

“Our embassy in Jakarta has filed today the second appeal for judicial review,” the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a text message to reporters Friday noon.

FRANCE WARNING

France has warned Indonesia that the executions could damage ties, while Australia has pleaded repeatedly for clemency for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, two Australians arrested as ringleaders of the so-called Bali Nine drug-smuggling group.

A lawyer for the two Australians said a letter of instruction had been sent from the office of the Indonesian attorney general to those responsible for carrying out the executions. He said it would be “a travesty” if they were executed while legal avenues were still being pursued.

“These developments are very concerning,” the Melbourne-based lawyer, Michael O’Connell, told Reuters.

“In effect, this letter of instruction is a step towards the execution of the 10 people … in the near future,” he said.

HUMANITARIAN CONSIDERATION

During the meeting with Kalla, Binay handed him his letter, appealing for humanitarian consideration.

“I most respectfully appeal for your humanitarian consideration on the case of Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipino national sentenced to death in Yogyakarta in 2010. She comes from a humble background and attained only a basic education. She is also a single mother of two sons,” Binay stated in his letter.

“She became the target of a neighbor by the name of Maria Cristina Sergio, who offered her work as a household worker in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Mary Jane happily accepted, as her only intention was to work overseas in order to earn enough to provide a better future for her two children, who depend solely upon her for support,” he said of Veloso.

UNWITTING VICTIM

Veloso, Binay said, had been an “unwitting victim of drug trafficking” and she did not know she was carrying heroin in her bag when she was traveling to Indonesia.

“All of our investigations indicate that she was indeed fooled into carrying the drugs in Indonesia. The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, after having investigated and interviewed Mary Jane, categorically stated their opinion of her innocence in drug trafficking. If indeed Mary Jane had been working as a drug mule, surely her family would have felt the benefits of the illicit trade, and would not be in such dire financial straits up to the present,” Binay added.

“I appeal to you on considerations of compassion, and assure you that the Philippine government is exhausting all avenues to ensure that proper justice is served to those responsible for deceiving Mary Jane into having brought the drugs into Indonesia. The National Bureau of Investigation has filed cases of human trafficking against Ms. Sergio and other accomplices,” he added.

The Vice President made the appeal as he assured Kalla that “the Philippine government fully respects the stand of the Indonesian government to the rule of law.”

“I merely ask that the penalty of death not be implemented on a woman, a single mother, and clearly an unwitting and unwilling victim of merciless drug trafficking syndicates,” he said.

Binay also gave his counterpart a copy of President Aquino’s letter to Indonesian President Joko Widodo and a humanitarian appeal from the family.

FAMILY OPTIMISTIC

Despite Veloso’s transfer to the “Execution Island,” her family and several protesters, led by Migrante International, remained optimistic she could still be saved from death.

In front of the Indonesian embassy in Makati City, Veloso’s ex-husband Michael Candelaria and brother Christopher joined more than a hundred protesters in appealing to the Indonesian government to heed the Philippine government’s appeal for judicial review.

“We hope that President (Aquino) can help us spare the life of my wife because she did no wrong. It is very sad for us to accept that she will be executed for a crime she did not commit. God knows that,” said Candelaria, 32.

“Before executing her, we are praying that the Indonesian government take time to investigate if she really committed the crime because she did not,” added Candelaria.

Christopher said she was able to talk to her sister and asked her to confess if she indeed committed the smuggling of heroin into Indonesia. Veloso denied the charges that even hurt him even more.

Both of them are still waiting for their flight schedule to Indonesia to see Veloso with the assistance of Migrante.

Migrante’s Gary Martinez said they will do all efforts to save Veloso, citing that they have helped in gathering pieces of evidence that could help in her appeal.

GOV’T ASSAILED

In their protest, Martinez assailed the Aquino government for “lying through its teeth when it said that it had done everything for Veloso.

“It is not true that the Philippine embassy provided Mary Jane with legal counsel and assistance from the very start,” said Martinez.

He said the Philippine legal team led by lawyers Edre Olalia and Minnie Lopez of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), held a dialogue with Rudyantho & Partners (R&P) in the presence of Veloso’s father Cesar, sister Maritess, and Migrante sectoral party chairperson Connie Bragas Regalado, where lies were uncovered.

He said that Ruyanto and partners (R&P), Veloso’s Indonesian lawyers, a few years back had already requested the Aquino government to investigate Cristina “Tintin” Sergio, the doomed OFW’s alleged recruiter and trafficker, even before the filing of the first petition for judicial review.

“Even the lawyers of Mary Jane were dismayed by the Aquino administration’s inaction,” said Martinez.

It was only in April, 2015, that Veloso’s parents, through their National Union of People’s Lawyers, were able to file a letter-complaint against Sergio at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking (IACAT).

“Why was Sergio not invited for any investigation?” asked Martinez as he called on the supporters of Veloso to hold Aquino government accountable for any criminal neglect on Mary Jane’s case.

Recently, Sergio denied her involvement to Veloso’s case.

“If she (Sergio) is really innocent, why could not she give any statement and clear Mary Jane of the charges?” asked Martinez.

In Luzon, supporters of Veloso launched four campaign centers in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, to show support and demand justice for the OFW.

The groups composed of labor and human rights organizations here and abroad will also hold a mass at the Cabanatuan Cathedral and will march toward their assembly area in the capital city today.

“Ang purpose nito at upang mahikayat ang ibang mamayan na makialam, kailangan ng paglilinaw sa mamamayan ang pangyayari itong; maging venue ito upang ma-draw yung support sa ibat-ibang pamamaraan maging itoy panalangin, supporta o donasyon para masustain yung campaign centers,” said Allan Bonifacio, coordinator, Migrante International Pangasinan chapter. (With reports from Roy C. Mabasa, Anna Liza Villas Alavaren, Chito A. Chavez, and Franco G. Regala)


GMA NEWS ONLINE

Mary Jane Veloso’s mother: ‘Marami akong sisingilin sa ating presidente’ April 24, 2015 5:35pm


Family of Mary Jane Veloso arrives in Jakarta (Reuters/Nyimas Laula)

The mother of Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina facing execution in Indonesia for drug smuggling, has accused President Benigno Aquino III of not doing enough to save her daughter's life.

“Ang masasabi ko lang, president, hintayin mo ang paniningil ko kapag may mangyari sa anak ko,” Celia Veloso said in an interview on GMA News TV's “Balitanghali” on Friday.

“Dahil hanggang ngayon, wala kang paramdam sa amin. Sasabihin ng mga tauhan mo na nagawa na ang lahat. Ngayong pahuli na, ngayon pa lang nila gagawin,” she added.

Mary Jane—arrested at the Yogyakarta International Airport in April 2010 for carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin—was transferred to the prison island of Nusukambangan, where executions are held in Indonesia, on Friday morning.

On the same day, the Philippine government filed its second appeal for a judicial review of the case with hopes that Mary Jane will be spared from the firing squad.

In the “Balitanghali” interview, Celia, who is in Indonesia to visit Mary Jane, could not hide her anger at the President. “Marami po akong sisingilin sa ating presidente. Hanggang sa ngayon, eto, siguro president, masaya ka na ngayon dahil andito na sa isla yung anak ko,” she said.

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Pro-migrant group Migrante International earlier claimed that the government did not provide Mary Jane proper legal assistance "until the last minute,” but the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) denied neglecting the Filipina.

Celia said the government should've provided assistance as early as 2010 when Mary Jane was arrested.

“Ngayon lang po sila umaksyon... Napakasakit po bilang ina, na nalaman ko na nilipat na yung anak ko. Sa totoo lang, 'di ko alam kung anong pakiramdam ko,” she said.

She described Mary Jane as the stronger one between the two of them.

“Malakas po ang loob ng anak ko. Ako nga po ang mahina, ako pa nga po ang pinagsasabihan niya. Hindi ko alam kung kaya ko o hindi, pero yung anak ko ho, malakas yung loob niya,” she said.

Mary Jane parents, as well as her two children and sister, are already in Indonesia to meet her.

The Attorney General's Office ordered the execution of 10 convicts with drug-related charges in an indeterminate time after the conclusion of the 60th Asian-African Conference Commemoration in Indonesia on April 24. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News


INQUIRER

Veloso reunites with children, parents on execution island Niña P. Calleja @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 10:54 AM | Saturday, April 25th, 2015


Brothers Mark Daniel, left, and Mark Darren Veloso, children of convicted drug trafficker Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, wait outside the Indonesian Embassy at the financial district of Makati city, east of Manila, Philippines as their grandmother Celia delivers an open letter addressed to Indonesian President Joko Widodo Wednesday, April 8, 2015. In the open letter, the Veloso family is asking for clemency to save the life of Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso who was convicted for drug trafficking in Indonesia and is sentenced to be executed after her appeal was rejected by the Indonesian Supreme Court March 26. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Filipina deathrow convict Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso will reunite with her children and parents Saturday after Indonesian authorities allowed her immediate family’s first visit to Nusakambangan, known as Indonesia’s execution island where inmates are about to face the 12-member firing squad.

The family, lawyers, and embassy officials will travel from Yogyakarta to the port area where they will take a 15-minute boat trip to the island, Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers and one of the private counsels of Veloso presently in Indonesia.

“This is a reunion of the family. We will give the family enough time to be with Mary Jane,” Olalia said in a phone interview

The Indonesian government allowed Mary Jane’s children Mark Daniel and Mark Darren, her parents, and her sister, along with two lawyers and Philippines embassy officials to visit Veloso in the Central Java island from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Central Java time).

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The lawyers of Veloso will also maximize a one-on-one private and confidential talk with her for any information that will help the Philippine authorities run after “the real perpetrators,” those behind the smuggling of the 2.6 kilograms of heroin found in her luggage in 2010 while she was traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Yogyakarta.

Past midnight on Friday, the family of Veloso received the order of execution from Attorney General’s Office of Indonesia.

The letter dated April 23 instructed prosecutors to prepare for the execution of 10 convicts including Veloso.

“The order of execution was acknowledged by the family but family members didn’t agree with what was stated in the order,” Olalia said.

He clarified that there is no fixed date for the execution yet as Indonesian protocols require a 72 hours’ notice.

While Veloso’s lawyers filed a second appeal for a judicial review on Friday, it may or may not stop the implementation of the order of execution.

“There is a possibility that the execution will not be carried out until the case has not been concluded,” Olalia said.

The second appeal provided new arguments for the commutation of the sentence of Veloso from death to life imprisonment.

“The court was not able to prove that Mary Jane was a drug courier. She was in possession of illegal drugs without her consent, knowledge and the intention of smuggling, selling them,” Olalia said.

Since it was a case of possession of illegal drugs, the sentence should be life imprisonment.

Another ground for a judicial review was the information–backed by the report of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency who went to visit Veloso earlier this month–that she was a victim of human trafficking.

“Victims of human trafficking according to international conventions being followed by several countries are mandated to be protected and not to be charged and punished. She should have been brought back to the Philippines,” Olalia said.

READ: Mary Jane Veloso's letters By Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) | Updated April 26, 2015 - 4:03pm

To VP Binay; to her kababayans; to the people "na nagpahamak ng aking buhay"


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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