A lawyers’ group and various Christian churches are struggling against all odds to save the life of Mary Jane Velasco, a Filipino facing execution in Indonesia.
Betrayed by a friend
The mother of two had just returned from a traumatic stint as a domestic worker in Dubai where, she says, her employer attempted to rape her. Desperate to help her children and her parents, she accepted a friend’s offer of a job in Malaysia.
“Christine” was the daughter of Mary Jane’s godfather. She brought Mary Jane to Malaysia. There was no job. She offered an alternative in Indonesia. Then she bought Mary Jane new luggage for her meager clothes. Mary Jane says she did not know the luggage also contained 2.6 kilos of heroin. She was nabbed at the airport by Indonesian authorities.
It is a story told too often. It is a story that has made Filipinos cynical.
We know there are Filipinos who knowingly accept offers to be drug mules. We also know many others are duped by smugglers of various contraband.
We can sniff and say, beh, buti na. But not too long ago, in more innocent times, we good-natured Filipinos thought nothing of accepting requests by strangers to accommodate their luggage.
I’ve done that before on trips where there was only a small bag to check in and someone next on the check-in line, with too much baggage, would beg to be relieved of the dreaded excess charge. I haven’t done that for years, of course, even when the person requesting the favor is a nice, sweet, 70-year old woman. Too dangerous.
But I’ve seen Filipino migrant workers in airports around the world and their host countries.
Left to their own defenses in hostile surroundings, Filipino overseas workers (OFWs) are torn between the need for caution and the very real need to help one another.
They step into the breach in countries where our embassies and consulates provide little or no aid to hapless peers. They rescue stranded and abused domestic workers. They provide funds, food and tender loving care to Filipinos wounded in the crossfire of host countries’ conflict. As former head of Bayan Mo iPatrol Mo, I have seen so many examples of the Filipino migrant’s innate generosity. So I cannot just dismiss claims of innocents who get into trouble.
Right to fair trial
I do not know whether Mary Jane Veloso is telling the truth. And neither does Edre Olalia, secretary-general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers.
Olalia’s group was approached by Mary Jane’s family two nights ago. They wanted help in a last-ditch attempt to save her life.
“I do not know what the truth is. But there are enough credible reports, including one by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which notes that she may been deprived of the right to a fair trial,” says Olalia.
NUPL will ask the DFA tomorrow for the Veloso case file. Among the documents they will request is a hand-written account by Mary Jane of her experience. This has been in the custody of the Philippine Embassy in Indonesia since 2010, says Olalia.
NUPL has also linked with an international lawyers’ group and Indonesian allies. They may file an amicus brief.
The lawyer was present at a forum at the Cubao diocese chancery yesterday, when religious groups and migrant organizations gathered to brainstorm the Save the Life of Mary Jane Veloso campaign.
Mary Jane’s father, Cesar, broke down seconds into his speech and had to be given some medical aid.
Her mother, Celia, later spoke on behalf of the family, narrating the horror of finding out through television news that her daughter’s appeal had been rejected by indonesia’s Supreme Court.
“We lost hope. We didn’t know who could help us,” Celia said in Filipino before thanking the alliance for the help. “
“Now we have found strength,” she said. “Maybe a miracle will happen.”
The Extra Mile
This is a poor family with little by way of resources and connections to save Mary Jane, and one under threat from the former friend – who remains at large.
By all accounts, Mary Jane is accepting of her fate though not bereft of a will to fight this last fight.
UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Christof Heyns, had earlier appealed for Indonesia to stop the executions. She cited a report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that said Veloso and other death row convicts did not receive sufficient legal services or the right to translators, and had no legal representation at all stages of their trials.
NUPL is doing research on a case of an Australian national whose death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment on the same grounds invoked by Veloso.
Innocents do get executed by states. Some extra-judicially, some at the tail-end of trials stacked against them. In the United States, just recently, a man walked free after 30 years on death row, after being convicted sans fingerprint evidence, no eyewitness and employers and workings confirming his alibi.
This is all the family asks from you – to help them campaign for another review of her case.
As Olalia notes, “there is no further motion for reconsideration in the afterlife.”
How To Help
If you want to help Mary Jane get another chance to prove her innocence, you can do this:
Send letters, emails or fax messages calling on:
- Indonesian Pres. Joko Widodo to grant Mary Jane Veloso clemency on grounds of a mistrial and for humanitarian reasons. Letters may be coursed through respective Indonesian embassies.
- Philippine Pres. Benigno Aquino III to exhaust all means to save Mary Jane Veloso’s life and demand to know why Mary Jane Veloso and others like her were deprived of proper legal assistance by the PH government.
- The Philippine government to hunt down and prosecute Mary Jane Veloso’s illegal recruiter, “Cristina”, who remains at large to this day. “Cristina” is also said to be harassing and threatening Veloso’s family.
- The United Nations to investigate why there have been the most number of executions that pushed through under the Aquino regime.
- Migrants’ and human rights-based organizations to appeal for clemency for Mary Jane Veloso.
Sign the petition calling on Pres. Widodo to stop the executions in Indonesia:
Like and circulate to all networks the Save the Life of Mary Jane Veloso Facebook page
You may send your communications to:
H.E. President of the Republic of Indonesia Joko Widodo
Jakarta Pusat 10110, Indonesia
Fax: +62 21 386 4816 /+62 21 344 2233
H.E. President of the Republic of the Philippines Benigno Aquino III
Office: JP Laurel St., San Miguel, Manila, Philippines
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
UN Special Rapporteur Christof Heyns on extrajudicial executions
Please send a copy of your email/mail/fax to the above-named government officials, to the address below:
Save the Life of Mary Jane Veloso
45 Cambridge St., Cubao, Quezon City, Philippines
Telefax: (+632) 9114910
Facebook: fb.com/SaveMJVeloso, fb.com/migranteinternational