Boxer Manny Pacquiao Helped Convince Indonesia’s Government to Spare Filipino Woman’s Life

( [email protected] ) Apr 30, 2015 01:39 AM EDT
Manny Pacquiao
Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao spars with his coach Freddy Roach ahead of his forthcoming megafight with Floyd Mayweather, during a training session at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, California on April 15, 2015 (AFP Photo/Frederic J. Brown)

Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao has been preparing for what some have called the "fight of the century" with Floyd Mayweather on Saturday. However, his recent efforts have been credited in saving a Filipino woman's life in Indonesia.

According to Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times, Pacquiao, a member of the House of Representatives in the Philippine government, made a plea to Indonesian President Joko Widodo to grant mercy for 30-year-old Mary Jane Veloso, a single mother of two boys. Veloso was about to be executed by Indonesia's government after being found with 5.7 pounds of heroin in the country's Yogyakarta airport five years ago.

"I am begging and knocking at your kind heart that your excellency grant executive clemency to her by sparing her life and saving her from execution," Pacquiao said in a somber tone that was taped by GMA News of the Philippines. "On May 2, I will be fighting in Las Vegas, Nev., against Floyd Mayweather, which is considered the fight of the century. It will be a great morale booster if, in my own little way, I can save a life."

Filipina drug convict and death row prisoner Mary Jane Veloso
Filipina drug convict and death row prisoner Mary Jane Veloso -- who claims she was duped into smuggling the drugs -- honours Indonesian national icon Raden Kartini during a ceremony at Yogyakarta prison, on April 21, 2015 (AFP Photo/Tarko Sudiarno)

Baxter reported that Veloso's mother, identified only as Celia, made her appeal to the boxer on a Manila radio station.

"Manny, please help save my daughter. Please speak up," Celia said. "Any word from your will help greatly because you are very popular in Indonesia."

Pacquiao's plea did not fall on deaf ears. According to Baxter, a spokesman for the Indonesian attorney general announced that Veloso's execution has been delayed at the last minute after Maria Kristina Sergio turned herself over to police on suspicion of tricking Veloso into carrying the drugs.

"The execution of Mary Jane [Veloso] has been postponed because there was a request from the Philippine president related to a perpetrator suspected of human trafficking who surrendered herself in the Philippines," spokesman Tony Spontana said.

According to Baxter, Pacquiao joined United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, popular Indonesian singer Anggun and Philippine President Benigno Aquino in asking for clemency. He indicated that he might travel to Indonesia two days after the fight to meet with Veloso and Indonesian officials.

"He also offered prayer messages for the condemned woman and her family," Baxter wrote.

According to Lindsay Murdoch of the Sydney Morning Herald, Joko indicated that he was sympathetic to the plight of Veloso, who came from an impoverished family. Aquino made the case to attorney general H.M. Prasetyo that Veloso's testimony would be needed so the Philippine government can catch other people involved with the drug smuggling attempt.

"They said they had evidence that Mary Jane was a victim of human trafficking," Prasetyo said of the Philippine government's pleas. "That was the reason why we delayed the execution."

However, Murdoch reported that Philippine authorities would have to come to Indonesia to collect Veloso's testimony. She could still face the death penalty if Indonesian authorities found any new evidence.

"We cannot dictate others [on] how and when other countries investigate a case," Prasetyo said.

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