Indon jail claims another Filipina

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BALI, Indonesia — After Mary Jane Veloso, another Filipina’s life hangs in the balance for drug charges and is languishing at an Indonesian jail facility.

Philippine Ambassador to Indonesia Leehiong Wee deferred revealing the identity of the Filipina inmate since he has yet to fully get details of the case. She is currently detained at a facility in the city of Semarang in Central Java.

“No execution date yet. I’m still not fully aware of the details, I just learned about it last week,” Wee told reporters at a pocket news conference at the Patra Bali Resort and Villas here.

He said the consulate had extended financial assistance to the unnamed Pinay and may personally visit her in jail in a week or two.

She may follow the fate of Mary Jane Veloso who was sentenced to death by firing squad in October 2010 after being caught with 2.6 kilograms of heroin hidden in her suitcase at the Yogjakarta airport.

Convicted as a drug mule by an Indonesian court, Veloso was granted reprieve in April 2015 by President Joko Widodo after he agreed to the Philippine government’s request to resolve Veloso’s illegal recruitment case against her alleged recruiters Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanila before a Nueva Ecija court first.

Sergio and Lacanila are facing charges for human trafficking, estafa and simple illegal recruitment.

In 2016, the Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Court Branch 88 decided to allow Veloso to testify against both through a statement to be taken from her jail cell in Wirogunan Prison. This decision, however, was overturned by the Court of Appeals early this year.

Terror tops agenda

Terrorism will be the key agenda when Mr. Duterte meets with the Indonesian President at the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) Leaders’ Gathering today.

Wee said one of the concerns shared by the two nations is the peace and order situation in the region.

“The Philippines’ military attaché has been regularly meeting with Indonesian authorities in Lombok and Bali on various issues, especially terrorism,” Wee told reporters.

“Both countries are stepping up security measures and Indonesia is helping the Philippines improve on peace and order, especially in the southern part,” he added.

Wee shared that the Celebes Sea separating the territories has “always been a problem” given the fact that known Islamic State (IS) operators have set up base in Indonesia and use the body of water as a back door to enter Mindanao.

He said “a lot of things” have already been set in place to ensure threats of terrorism and extremism in the region are minimized if not totally eliminated.

Just recently, the Philippines was lauded by the US State Department for its “improved counterterrorism capabilities in the face of evolving and increasingly robust terrorist threat” as mentioned in its Country Reports on Terrorism for 2017.

Hope remains for Veloso

Wee said he remains optimistic that Veloso will not be executed. He gave assurance that the government is doing all it can to help the convicted single mother of two.

“The embassy is doing everything to help her out. We have lawyers to help her on the legal side and she is also regularly given financial assistance,” Wee said.

“Every three or four months, the embassy sends people to see her. In the next week or two, I will also be going there,” he added.

Wee also said he and other Embassy officials also recently visited 48 Filipino fishermen who were arrested and jailed in Manado and Bitung after being caught illegally fishing in Indonesia. Twenty have already been released while the rest are just waiting for authorities’ orders to be sent back to the Philippines.

$.3-M aid to Indonesia

Also following through with its earlier promise to extend help, the government sent relief supplies to calamity-stricken island of Central Sulawesi.

A magnitude 7.5 earthquake jolted the city of Palu, home to roughly 400,000 people, last 28 September, that triggered a massive tsunami that virtually wiped out anything and everything in its path.

The double disaster has so far left almost 2,000 people dead and the number is expected to rise as no orders issued just yet to halt the search and retrieval of bodies. As many as 5,000 are still believed to be missing from the twin disasters.

“We are pleased to give $300,000 for humanitarian assistance, in cash and in kind,” Wee said.
Indonesia has always been among the first to send aid to the country in times of disasters, most notably when typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) struck in 2013.

“We are ready to send more aid as the need arises,” Wee added. “Indonesia was very helpful in times of need by the Philippines, particularly when ‘Yolanda’ struck many years ago. This is a good way of showing our brotherly relationship with Indonesia, we regard Indonesians as our big brothers.”

According to Wee, the Philippine Air Force’s (PAF) Lockheed C-130 “Hercules” cargo aircraft flew directly to Palu carrying six generators, six water filtration units, 100 tents and assorted sleeping kits.

He said various businesses from the private sector in Manila have also directly sent help to the Indonesian Embassy.

Indonesia’s envoy to the Philippines, Dr. Sinyo Harry Sarundajang, expressed gratitude for the Filipinos’ help.

“In behalf of the government and the people of Indonesia, I would like to thank your government and your people for the support to us during times of disaster. You always show sympathy and give help. I am very happy. We are very grateful,” Sarundajang said.

RP planes in relief

The government also sent a plane loaded with relief goods to Palu in Indonesia in response to calls for humanitarian assistance.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the government committed to two sorties of C130 cargo planes for Palu — the first one left yesterday and the other will leave on the 15th.

Lorenzana said upon arrival in Palu, the PAF’s C130 plane will also assist in ferrying goods from within Indonesia.

He said the Duterte administration is also donating certain amounts to assist the rehabilitation efforts in Palu.

“We could have reacted earlier but we had also disasters here in the Philippines…up to now we are still retrieving bodies at the landslides. So there will be two sorties of C130 — one for today and another on the 15th,” Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana was referring to the landslides in Itogon, Benguet and Naga City in Cebu that killed nearly a hundred people.

The defense chief stressed the Philippine humanitarian mission would not be involved in the actual retrieval operations in Palu.

“We will be helping them ferry goods,” Lorenzana said.

For his part, Indonesia’s Deputy Chief of Mission in the Philippines Dhewajini expressed Jakarta’s gratitude to the Philippine government for the prompt humanitarian assistance.

“We thank the government and the people of the Philippines for all the condolences and assistance. When my government opened (our doors) for international support, the Philippine government quickly responded,” Dhewajini said.

With Mario J. Mallari, Kathleen Mae Bulquerin

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