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Pacquiao seeks mercy for Filipino on death row in Indonesia

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Boxing icon Manny Pacquiao visited a Filipino woman on death row in Indonesia early Friday and appealed for her clemency, a human rights lawyer said.

Pacquiao and his wife, Jinkee, spent about an hour with Mary Jane Veloso early Friday at a Yogyakarta jail, Edre Olalia of the Public Interest Law Center in Manila said, citing his Indonesian colleagues.

Veloso was sentenced to death for drug trafficking after heroin was found hidden in her luggage at the Yogyakarta airport in 2010. She was granted a last minute stay of execution in April but eight other convicts — two Australians, four Nigerians, a Brazilian and an Indonesian — were executed.

Olalia, a lawyer for the Veloso family, said two judicial reviews have failed to overturn her conviction and death sentence.

He said he will discuss a possible third appeal with his Indonesian counterparts but believes that “an appeal for clemency may be stronger.”

There was no immediate word on whether Pacquiao has met with Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo as he had planned, Olalia said. Pacquiao, who is also a congressman, is vice chairman of a committee on Filipino overseas workers in the House of Representatives.

The Philippine Department of Justice said Thursday that state prosecutors will file charges of human trafficking, illegal job recruitment and fraud against the woman who allegedly brought Veloso to Malaysia, where she was given a bag that held 2.6 kilograms (5.7 pounds) of heroin. The woman has surrendered to police and has admitted that Veloso was unaware she was carrying drugs.

The plight of Filipino workers overseas is a sensitive issue in the country where about a tenth of its 100 million people leave their homeland in search of jobs and better opportunities.

“We welcome all efforts that will help Mary Jane,” said Charles Jose, spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Migrante, a group helping Filipino overseas workers, thanked Pacquiao and his wife for visiting Veloso.

“Congressman and Mrs. Pacquiao’s visit reflects the just and growing global demand that Mary Jane be granted clemency and be brought home to her family in the Philippines,” the group said in a statement.

Before his megabout with Floyd Mayweather in May, Pacquiao promised to visit Veloso in the jail in and to meet with the Indonesian president to personally to appeal for clemency.

“I am begging and knocking at your kind heart that your excellency will grant executive clemency to her by sparing her life and saving her from execution,” Pacquiao said in a statement then.

DZMM radio in Manila reported that Pacquiao’s wife tearfully embraced Veloso during their meeting. The champion held back his own emotions but teared up after the meeting where the Bible-quoting boxer joined others in a prayer for Veloso, the report said. It said Veloso gave Pacquiao a scarf she had made for the champion as a gift.

Olalia said the Pacquiao couple was accompanied by about 20 people, including Philippine embassy staff, Indonesian lawyers, and officials of an Indonesian company producing a herbal medicine which the Filipino champion is endorsing.

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