So certain were some Philippine newspapers that convicted drug smuggler Mary Jane Veloso would face the firing squad in Indonesia after midnight Tuesday that they had already declared her dead.
"Death came before dawn," read the headline of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the country's largest paper. The Manila Bulletin stated, "No delay in execution," while Filipino-language tabloid Abante wrote "Farewell, Mary Jane" across a front page colored black in mourning.
As the nation woke, however, they discovered that the headlines were wrong and that an 11th hour reprieve had been granted to Ms. Veloso so she could stand witness in a human-trafficking trial. The 30-year-old mother of 2 was sentenced to death for attempting to smuggle 2.6 kilograms of heroin into Indonesia in her luggage in 2010.
Hours before her execution, the woman who allegedly recruited Ms. Veloso turned herself into Philippine authorities paving the way for a court case. Tony Spontana, a spokesman for the Indonesian Attorney General's Office, told The Wall Street Journal in a text message that "the Philippine president said her presence was needed in the trial."
The news came after days of building protests and calls for clemency.
During a regional summit Monday, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III had made a last-ditch appeal to Indonesian President Joko Widodo to spare Ms. Veloso's life.
Philippine Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras said Mr. Aquino continued to push his request the next day, breaking protocol to relay directly to Indonesia's foreign minister the news of the recruiter's surrender and the case being built up against the human-trafficking syndicate.
The death penalty was abolished in 2006 as capital punishment in the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country. Despite building protests, however, Mr. Widodo had refused to concede, saying his country was sticking to executions in order to put an end to rising drug abuse.
Protesters in Manila who had staged candlelight vigils in front of the Indonesian Embassy to plea for Ms. Veloso reacted with shouts of joy to what had only hours earlier seemed an impossible outcome.
"We are relieved that the execution of Mary Jane Veloso was not carried out tonight....The Lord has answered our prayers," Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said during a news briefing to deliver the news.
Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, who made an earlier public appeal to President Joko Widodo, also sent out a message thanking God.
Ms. Veloso was among a group of 8 foreigners, including 2 Australians, 4 Nigerians and a Brazilian, awaiting execution Tuesday evening. 7 of them were killed by a firing squad just after 12:30 a.m. along with an 8th convicted drug smuggler from Indonesia.
Source: Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2015
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