MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said he hopes he could do something to ease the burden of Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipina found guilty of drug trafficking in Indonesia.
''[Si] Veloso. Ewan ko kung anong – I'm praying that I could do something for her,'' said Duterte, who is due to visit Indonesia next month after his participation in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.
(About Veloso. I don't know if -- I'm praying that I could do something for her.)
Duterte said these words even as he is known for his tough stance towards drug pushers and users. He is also advocating death penalty.
READ: Death toll in Philippines' drug war hits 2,000
Veloso was due to be executed last year through firing squad but she was given a last-minute reprieve by the Indonesian government.
READ: Why Mary Jane Veloso got last-minute reprieve
The reprieve was given after Manila told Jakarta that it had in its custody Veloso's employer who allegedly planted the illegal drugs on the Filipina's luggage.
Migrante International, a migrant workers' group in the Philippines that led the campaign to halt Veloso's execution, said there were many more women like her.
"Governments should consider (migrant workers) as people who are victimized by the drug trade, they are tricked into being mules - but they are the ones being punished for the crime," said Mic Catuira, Migrante International's deputy secretary-general.
Indonesia and the Philippines are two of Asia's main suppliers of migrant workers, with about 8.5 million such workers overseas, official data showed.
There are 205 Indonesians and 94 Filipino migrant workers on death row overseas, according to Indonesia's women's commission and Migrante International, citing figures from their respective foreign ministries.
Indonesia imposed a moratorium on executions for five years before resuming them in 2013. It has executed 14 convicts, most of them foreigners, under President Joko Widodo.
But amid international outrage last year, scheduled executions were postponed while the government focused on reviving the economy, officials said. - with Reuters