Aquino appeals to Indonesia one more time to keep Filipina alive

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Benigno Aquino said he made one last appeal to the Indonesian government to spare a Filipina among nine prisoners set to be executed for drug trafficking on Tuesday as she could be a vital witness in prosecuting drug syndicates.

It was Aquino's third personal appeal, after the Indonesian attorney general rejected the Philippine's request on Monday for a second judicial review of the case of Mary Jane Veloso, who her lawyers say merely served as an unknowing mule to drug traffickers.

Aquino told reporters in the Malaysian resort of Langkawi, where he is attending an Asean summit, that Veloso has started to cooperate with authorities after showing hesitation in the past.

"She does present an opportunity right now to be able to uncover all the participants and start the process of bringing them to the bars of justice. So we presented that," Aquino said. "It seems to serve both of our interest to keep her alive to be able to testify, and it serves the ends of justice for both our concerns," he said.

Families of the death row inmates have until 8pm (9pm Singapore time) to say their final goodbyes after Jakarta rejected international pleas for clemency and ordered their executions to proceed, possibly within hours.

Indonesia President Joko Widodo reportedly called for an emergency meeting on Veloso with various organisations, social news network Rappler reported.

The meeting started around 2:30 pm on Tuesday, the report said, citing Migrante International, an umbrella group of overseas Filipinos. It said Anis Hidayah, the executive director of Jakarta-based NGO Migrant Care, is present at the meeting.

Veloso's lawyers filed a human trafficking complaint recently against her recruiter Maria Cristina Sergio, who they allege promised the death-row inmate a job as a domestic worker but instead led her to become a drug mule.

Sergio voluntarily surrendered to police on Tuesday in Nueva Ecija province northeast of the capital Manila, seeking protection after receiving death threats via her social media accounts and mobile phone.

Veloso is one of nine drug traffickers ordered by Indonesian authorities to die in a mass execution that may proceed possibly within hours. Indonesia has harsh punishments for drug crimes and resumed executions in 2013 after a five-year gap.

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