Migrant advocates are calling on President Duterte to do everything in his power to save Mary Jane and all innocent OFW’s on death row.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Three years ago, supporters of migrant workers around the world campaigned hard – and won a reprieve – for Mary Jane Veloso. She was snatched safe almost in front of the firing squad, with the Indonesian government announcing at the last minute their decision to halt her execution for the time being. In response to the requested judicial review, it said it will await the results of the trial of Veloso’s alleged traffickers in the Philippines.
Veloso had been transferred with 10 others in death row three years ago to Indonesia’s so-called execution island. One by one she saw all the other 10 taken out. They were shot by firing squad that day as scheduled. Veloso would later share the mixed feelings she had at the time. She was fearful, resigned yet hoping against hope. Each time one was executed and she was bypassed, she was perplexed, stunned, and in the end, weak with relief and simply happy to have received another chance at life. This is a life where she’s still in the death row and striving to get out. As supporters who visited her since then noted, Veloso is resourceful and hardworking. She has even learned to speak Bahasa, the language spoken by most of her fellow prisoners.
Convicted as a drug mule by an Indonesian court, Veloso’s case sparked international outrage against trafficking. In the Philippines, her alleged illegal recruiters, Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, have admitted wrongdoing and are now in jail. Migrante International blamed these recruiters “for preying on Mary Jane as their innocent victim in the drug trafficking.”
But after three years, Veloso remains in jail in Indonesia. Her recruiters and suspected mastermind in the drugs trade, meanwhile, have so far succeeded in preventing the Philippine court from adjusting to the “novelty” and fact that Veloso is in jail abroad and could not physically attend hearings in the Philippines.
Continuing campaign for Veloso’s freedom
Since Veloso’s statement is crucial in the trial of her alleged recruiters and traffickers, the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), which has served as Veloso’s counsel in her drug trafficking case in Indonesia and private counsels in the case against her recruiters, had filed a petition for her written deposition to take the place of an actual testimony.
This petition was blocked by the Public Attorneys’ Office. Last January, the CA affirmed this injunction. The (Public Attorney’s Office) PAO said, and the CA’s 11th division agreed, that a written testimony will deprive their clients of the right to face the complainant and also to a speedy disposition of the case.
But the NUPL contested this, saying “No fundamental right is violated if Mary Jane is allowed to answer written interrogatories as the accused through counsel will be present when her deposition is taken in Indonesia in the presence not only of the same Philippine judge hearing the case for human trafficking, illegal recruitment and swindling, but also other concerned judicial and consular officials of the Philippines and Indonesia.”
Migrant advocates to ask Court of Appeals, then Supreme Court, to let Mary Jane ‘speak’
If the Court of Appeals decides against Veloso’s motion for reconsideration this week, Migrante said, they will raise the appeal to the Supreme Court.
They will also mark the third anniversary of Veloso’s stayed execution with a Global Day of Action on April 29, in different cities overseas. Local supporters are expected to gather at Mendiola near Malacañang. Migrante said they will urge President Duterte to do everything in his power to save Mary Jane and all innocent OFW’s on death row.
Veloso’s parents thanked her supporters and appealed for continuing support. They are set to visit their daughter on April 29, thanks in part to the hard work of Migrante International and Indonesian Churches.
All over the world as of last September 2017, there have been 130 Filipinos in death row, 626 Filipinos in distress or under investigation for various offenses, and some 137 Filipinos, 33 of whom are female, serving life sentences abroad, based on a report by the Department of Foreign Affairs. The department based it on a compilation of dispatches by Philippine embassies and consulates on overseas Filipinos in distress from July to December 2016. Thousands are serving “fixed-term” jail sentences. And these figures are regarded as just the tip of the iceberg because of the inconclusiveness of some reports plus the phenomenon of undocumented migration. <a href=””><img title=”This story is from Bulatlat.com” src=”/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/bulatlat_tagline.jpg” alt=”()” height=”16″ /></a>