Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso is a Filipino woman who was arrested and sentenced to death for smuggling heroin into Indonesia.
Her case, among others, sparked international attention towards Indonesia’s capital punishment and drug prohibition laws.
Veloso was born in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija. She is the youngest of five siblings.
She and her husband married when she was around 17 years old but they later separated. They have two sons.
Prior to her arrest, in 2009, Veloso worked in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates for about six months. Her father said that she left her job because her employer attempted to rape her.
Veloso was arrested in Indonesia in April 2010 for smuggling 2.6 kilograms of heroin in a suitcase.
Throughout her trial, she maintained her innocence, claiming that she was duped into carrying the suitcase by her godsister who convinced her to go to Indonesia after losing a job in Malaysia.
Veloso was sentenced to death in October 2010 but was spared due to a moratorium on capital punishment enacted by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. She was again scheduled to be executed in January 2015 after the election of Joko Widodo as President of Indonesia.
She was scheduled to be executed in Nusa Kambangan together with the Bali Nine duo from Australia, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran; Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte; an Indonesian and four Nigerians at 1:00 AM WIB (2:00 AM PHT) on 29 April 2015.
At midnight on 29 April 2015, Veloso was granted a stay of execution so she could act as a witness during the trial of her alleged human trafficker.
News of the reprieve came so close to the scheduled time of her execution that several news outlets reported erroneously that it had occurred.
The front-page headline on one newspaper read “Death Came Before Dawn”. She was reprieved after reports that her trafficker had surrendered to the police, which had prompted Philippines President Benigno Aquino III to make a final appeal for clemency on the basis that her testimony could be invaluable in the prosecuting her alleged recruiter.
Veloso’s alleged trafficker Maria Kristina Sergio, along with Sergio’s live-in partner Julius Lacanilao and an African national tentatively identified as “Ike”, will face charges of human trafficking, illegal recruiting and estafa (fraud).
Her mother believes Veloso was spared by a ‘miracle’; the other eight prisoners scheduled for execution alongside her were executed by firing squad early on the morning of 29 April.
According to The Jakarta Post, on 12 September 2016, Indonesia President Joko Widodo reported that Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte had authorized Veloso’s execution.
However, on the same day, a Manila Bulletin article said that Manny Piñol, the Philippines Agriculture Secretary, said that Duterte actually asked for clemency for Veloso.