PRESIDENT Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. will “most likely” bring up the case of Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina on death row in Indonesia, when he meets with Indonesian President Joko Widodo during his state visit to the country next week.
Marcos leaves on Sunday for back-to-back trips. He will be in Indonesia on September 4 to 6 and in Singapore on September 6 to 7.
Ambassador Ma. Teresita Daza, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman, said the department does not want to preempt discussions between the two presidents, but talks about an appeal for the Indonesian government to grant Veloso a pardon are not far-fetched.
Daza said during a pre-departure briefing on Friday that the DFA secretary “has actually mentioned during the budget hearing, that [the Veloso case] is an issue that will be raised.”
Daza said “a number of activities” have been lined up for Marcos while he is in Jakarta, but it is not known if they include a visit to Veloso at the Yogyakarta prison.
Veloso has been imprisoned for 12 years on drug charges. She has maintained her innocence and insisted her recruiters tricked her by giving her a suitcase that contained illegal drugs.
Daza also said several key deals are expected to be signed during Marcos’ visit.
“Among the areas of cooperation that are being identified are security and defense, border management, counterterrorism, economy, energy, maritime affairs, culture, education, labor, health, and consular matters, among other things,” she said.
The renewal of the 1997 Agreement on Cooperative Activities in the Field of Defense and Security between the two countries could also be on the agenda, Daza said.
“The agreement has expired, and now we’re renewing this agreement. It will serve as the mother framework for all defense and security cooperation with Indonesia. It is significant as the defense cooperation between the two countries has actually increased through the years,” she said.
In Singapore, Marcos is expected to have separate meetings with President Halimah Yakob and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to discuss the close bilateral relations between the two countries, as well as regional and global issues.
Marcos and Loong will also witness the signing of agreements in the areas of counterterrorism and data privacy between the two countries.
“One is the arrangement concerning the assignment of a team to the regional counterterrorism information facility or what is called the CTIF,” Daza said.
The agreement will be signed by the Armed Forces chiefs of the Philippines and Singapore.
Daza described the CTIF as “a multi-lateral platform for monitoring, research and analysis of terrorist activities. By deploying a Philippine officer, the Philippines can share its experience and expertise in addressing or combatting terrorism, at the same time, gather valuable intelligence from other countries and expand our defense network.”
Marcos might also bring up the longstanding territorial dispute in the South China Sea in his talks with the Indonesian and Singaporean leaders, Daza said.
“Aside from discussing bilateral relations, there will be an exchange of views on regional and global developments. And as all are actually leaders and members of Asean, there will clearly be discussions on key regional issues of mutual interest, including the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea issue, cognizant that all three countries are, actually, had the common goal to maintain peace and stability and prevent incidents in this particular part of the world,” she said.
Both Malacañang and the DFA earlier said the President’s trips to neighboring countries are proof that the Philippines values its ties with its fellow Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members.
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Author: Kristina Maralit