A last-minute reprieve for Filipina drug convict Mary Jane Veloso – facing execution in Indonesia along with Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran – has sparked an outpouring of euphoria and disbelief.
As it emerged the 30-year-old single mother was not among a group of eight prisoners sent to the firing squad early Wednesday, her supporters wept with joy, her family declared their prayers answered and her children cried “Mama will live”.
“Miracles do come true,” Veloso’s mother, Celia, told Manila radio.
Protesters who had been keeping vigil outside the Indonesian embassy in Manila wept with joy, hugged each other and raised clenched fists.
Veloso’s sons, aged six and 12, who went to Indonesia last week to say goodbye, were overjoyed, according to their grandmother.
Veloso has always maintained an international human trafficking and drug gang tricked her into bringing 2.6 kilograms of heroin to Indonesia from Malaysia five years ago.
She was granted an 11th-hour stay of execution after the person suspected of asking her to carry the drugs turned herself in to authorities in the Philippines.
President Benigno Aquino on Tuesday also offered Veloso as a witness against drug rings operating in Indonesia.
Aquino’s spokesman Herminio Coloma described Veloso as a “victim”, and said the whole nation was grateful to Indonesia and thanking God her life had been spared.
The Philippines is a deeply Catholic country and priest Harold Toledano, who had been counselling the Veloso family, said she never lost hope she would be saved.
“It’s like a resurrection for us. She is alive. It is like an experience of knowing someone has died and then, just risen,” Toledano said in Cilacap, where Veloso’s family kept vigil.
“It’s too good to be true. It’s a miracle. It’s amazing.”
Veloso’s Filipino lawyer, Edre Olalia, said the Veloso family in Cilacap jumped and shouted for joy when they were informed of the reprieve.
In Veloso’s hometown of Cabanatuan city, about hours north of Manila, relatives heaved a heavy sigh of relief.
“This is nothing short of a miracle. We are overjoyed. Praise God,” Veloso’s aunt, Imelda Magday, told local television.
“I felt this surge of energy when I heard the news. I thank the Lord. Mary Jane, don’t worry, we will see each other soon,” Veloso’s grandmother, Milagros Fiesta, said in a separate television interview.