Is this another case of “lost in translation?” Earlier today, Tempo editor Rey Bancod called to ask me to validate a news report coming from Jakarta, Indonesia quoting President Joko Widodo as saying that President Rody Duterte gave his “Go” signal for the execution of convicted drug mule Mary Jane Veloso.
This was followed by another interview by DZMM anchor Anthony “Ka Tunying” Taberna who also asked me the same question.
Well, here is my answer: No, I never heard President Duterte say that he was giving the Indonesian Government the “Go” signal to execute Veloso.
Why am I so sure?
Well, I was present during the bilateral talks between the Indonesian Government and the Philippine Government at the Istana Merdeka President Palace.
I was also present during the delivery of official statements by the two Presidents after the bilateral talks and I also joined the party during the State Dinner tendered by President Widodo for President Duterte and his Party.
During the bilateral talks, I was seated a chair away from President Duterte with Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. seated between us.
Across the table, Indonesian President Widodo was facing President Duterte and I was about two meters away from him.
Maybe it was out of habit that as a former newsman, I took notes of the exchange of statements between the two Presidents during the bilateral talks.
It was President Widodo who made the opening statement and President Duterte responded by reading a prepared statement.
I could not quote President Duterte verbatim but I am sure that the transcript of his statement would prove that what he said during the official statement was the following:
“We respect your laws. We will not interfere with your judicial processes but we are asking for clemency.”
That statement referred not only to the case of Veloso but also for the 105 Filipino fishermen who are now detained in different jails all over Indonesia for alleged illegal fishing activities.
So is this another case of “lost in translation?”
Only the Indonesian side could explain that.
As far as I am concerned and as a former journalist myself, I can state with certainty that during the official bilateral talks between the two leaders, President Duterte never said he was giving a “Go” signal for the execution of Veloso.
In fact, he did not even mention her name and only referred to her as a Filipino whose fate under Indonesian laws he would respect.