Jokowi says he gets Duterte’s Mary Jane remarks right

President Joko Widodo said Tuesday he had not misinterpreted Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s remarks that Indonesia can go on with the execution of Mary Jane Veloso, a Philippine woman on death row in Indonesia.

He reaffirmed his position a day after Manila denied that Duterte told Jokowi to proceed with the execution of Mary Jane, a former migrant worker who was sentenced to death for trafficking drugs into Indonesia.

“Presiden Duterte has said please proceed in accordance with the laws in Indonesia. The meaning is clear just like I said [on Monday],” Jokowi said, according to the cabinet secretary’s website.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto R. Yasay said in a statement on Monday that Duterte only told Jokowi he respects Indonesia’s judicial processes and will accept whatever the final decision Indonesia will have regarding Mary Jane’s case. Yasay also said that Mary Jane’s execution has been indefinitely deferred.

The statement was issued in response to Jokowi’s statement earlier in the day that Duterte had given the nod to Indonesia to execute Mary Jane.

Duterte met with Jokowi last week on a state visit in Jakarta. Jokowi said during their meeting, he had told his Philippine counterpart about the case of Mary Jane, a former migrant worker and Duterte responded to go ahead with the execution.

Mary Jane had been caught carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin when she was arrested at Yogyakarta’s Adisucipto airport in April 2010. She was sentenced to death in October the same year.

Mary Jane was spared from the April 29, 2015 execution at the eleventh hour after the Philippines authorities arrested Maria Cristina Sergio, her alleged recruiter who had tricked her into carrying drugs to Indonesia.

Attorney General spokesman Muhammad Rum said Mary Jane’s execution remains postponed pending the legal process of Maria Cristina, to whom she would testify against.

“We continue to coordinate with the Philippine authorities as the case is ongoing and is yet to reach a verdict,” Rum said.

Jokowi and Duterte’s spat rubbishing one another’s statement drew criticism from migrant workers’ communities in Indonesia and the Philippines. The two countries are major migrant-worker sending countries and migrant workers from both countries, most of whom are females, have often fell into trafficking in persons or tricked into carrying out illegal activities such as being drug mules.

“Jokowi and Duterte’s conflicting statements are regrettable and counterproductive, especially considering this is about someone’s live,” said Anis Hidayah, head of migrant workers advocacy group Migrant Care.

Anis, who was involved in lobbying for Mary Jane’s last-minute stay of execution, also said Jokowi showed a lack of compassion by releasing such a statement.

“It must have been very demoralizing and shocking for Mary Jane’s family,” she said, adding that Jokowi should pardon Mary Jane given she is also a victim of human trafficking.

Migrante International, an advocacy group for overseas Philippine workers, issued a statement urging Duterte to be Mary Jane’s top advocate.

The group chairperson Garry Martinez said that Duterte should understand Mary Jane is a victim due to lack of jobs, poverty, illegal recruitment and drug trafficking.

“President Duterte’s war on drugs must mean something. It must mean protecting victims like Mary Jane,” Martinez said, referring to Duterte’s tough war on drugs by launching extrajudicial killing that has killed thousands since he took office two months ago.

“We ask the President to be her no. 1 advocate and supporter and send a message to the drug traffickers that they will pay,” Martinez added.

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