'People's champ' Manny Pacquiao meets Mary Jane Veloso
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Fufilling his promise to visit Mary Jane Veloso, Filipino boxing champ and Sarangani Representative Manny Pacquiao met the Filipina death row convict in Indonesia Friday morning, July 10.
In an Instagram post, Pacquiao posted a photo of him and his wife Jinkee praying with Veloso at the Wirogunan prison in Yogyakarta, where the mother of two awaits developments on her case and the government appeal to spare her from execution.
"Please keep her in your prayers," Pacquiao told his Instagram followers.
During a 30-minute meeting, Pacquiao and his wife Jinkee prayed with Veloso. The convict broke down in tears as she prayed, a government official who witnessed the meeting told reporters, and at one point tightly embraced the boxing star.
They also swapped gifts – Veloso gave Pacquiao a blue scarf emblazoned with his nickname "Pacman," while the boxer gave her money.
Prison officials, however, said they would keep the money for her as it was against the rules for inmates to have cash. They did not say how much it was.
Race to save Mary Jane
"We're hoping to help save Mary Jane's life. I think Mary Jane is a victim of human-trafficking," Pacquiao said after visiting the single mother of two young children.
Pacquiao, who was in Indonesia to film a television advert, was also hoping to raise her case with President Joko Widodo during a visit to the capital Jakarta later Friday.
Veloso was scheduled for execution on April 29 but was granted a last-minute reprieve following an international, multisectoral effort to save her life.
Pacquiao, who is vice chair of the House committee on migrant workers' affairs, had joined Filipinos and the international community in asking Indonesian President Joko Widodo to save Veloso, who was set to be executed for drug trafficking charges. (READ: Pacquiao begs Indonesian leader: Save Mary Jane)
When he was training for his May 2 fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr, Pacquiao promised he would visit Veloso after the bout. (READ: Manny Pacquiao set to visit Mary Jane Veloso in Indonesia)
Charges vs alleged traffickers
"We thank and salute Representative Manny Pacquiao and his wife Jinkee for their visit to human trafficking victim Mary Jane Veloso in Indonesia. This means so much to the Veloso family, especially to her sons," Migrante International said in a statement.
"We also hope that Pacquiao’s visit will shed light on the slow pace of the human trafficking case against those who victimized Mary Jane," the group added.
The justice department on Thursday, July 9, approved the filing of illegal recruitment, estafa, and qualified human trafficking charges on Friday, July 10, against the recruiters of Veloso after it found probable cause to indict them.
The Department of Justice said recruiters Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, both of whom are already in jail for a separate large-scale illegal recruitment case, will face charges. They will be charged, along with a certain "Ike," who supposedly provided Veloso the luggage which contained 2.6 kilograms of heroin hidden in its lining. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com