Spare victim Mary Jane Veloso
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines joins the Filipino people’s call to save the life of overseas Filipino worker Mary Jane Veloso who has been sentenced to death by the Indonesian government for drug trafficking. But according to accounts, she is a victim of a drug syndicate and went to Indonesia only because she was told a job awaited her there.
A single mother of two, Mary Jane flew to Dubai in 2009 to work. She returned a year later after her employer attempted to rape her. In April 2010, she was illegally recruited by a friend to work in Malaysia. But upon setting foot in Malaysia, she was told the job was no longer available. The same friend persuaded her to proceed to Indonesia instead, where she was arrested. She had been duped into carrying a sizable amount of heroin in a luggage her friend entrusted to her. She was jailed, then sentenced to death by the Indonesian Supreme Court that same year. Her case was submitted for judicial review but the appeal was rejected. Mary Jane will be held in a maximum security cell until her execution through firing squad.
Our hearts are pained whenever we hear stories like this. To think that we just commemorated the 20th year of Flor Contemplacion’s execution a few weeks ago. Mary Jane’s case and the stories of the other OFWs on death row are the consequences of the Filipino exodus to other countries. On one hand, this is forced migration instigated by the dream of a better life for their families at home. On the other hand, migration is part of the development agenda of the State not for the overseas workers’ welfare but for their remittances.
According to accounts, Mary Jane was not provided with a lawyer for her defense. She was only provided with a translator. The same thing happened to Flor Contemplacion. The same circumstances that Filipinos now on death row overseas, especially in the Middle East, find themselves in. Twenty years and nothing has changed, the same government neglect that caused the death of Flor Contemplacion in 1995 is still the main reason many OFWs are on death row.
We thus appeal to the government to immediately take action to save the life of Mary Jane. We echo the call of our migrant sisters and brothers: “We do not want another Flor Contemplacion!” While it is paramount that everything be done to save her life in the immediate, in the long run, the best way to prevent another case like this is to provide adequate jobs here in the country. Jobs that can provide decent lives for all.
We also bring Mary Jane’s case to the attention of the public and all churches around the world. Let us join together in praying and calling on the Indonesian government to heed the appeal of the United Nations and various governments for clemency.
We maintain that Mary Jane is a victim of an organized criminal drug syndicate and should not be executed. As we observe Christ’s victory over death, we are hopeful that Mary Jane, with us on her side, will triumph over this darkness in her life.
—REV. FR. REX R. B. REYES JR.,
general secretary, National Council
of Churches in the Philippines, [email protected]
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