‘Iuwi n’yo na nanay ko, ha?’
HOW DO you answer when Mary Jane Veloso’s youngest son, a six-year-old, pulls you aside and coyly whispers the question, in a bashful tone: “Atorni, iuwi n’yo na nanay ko, ha (Attorney, please bring my mother back home already, OK)?”
One year after that extraordinary, unprecedented reprieve that saved Mary Jane from the valley of death, we pause to ask: When is she coming home?
In the distant Wirongunan prison, Mary Jane, a young, poor mother of two, pushed by her own government to work abroad because she wanted a decent life, is—though steeled by fortitude—still forlorn, all alone and pining for home, a victim not only of unscrupulous drug and human traffickers but also of circumstance.
She is waiting. But until when shall she wait?
But the legal process in the Philippines where she pins her of hope has presented challenges. The case may now be past its pretrial stage; after a year, it may
have taken off but it continues to drag through a tedious, cumbersome, drawn-out, complicated process.
Multiple motions, extended arguments and denials of matters of public knowledge coming from the accused illegal recruiters delay the resolution of the case. There is also the frustrating difficulty of having to attend to hearings in a remote venue and to deal with conflicts of schedules in the court calendar due to previous professional commitments. And how and when Mary Jane can fully tell her story in a legally permissible and most practicable way remain a big question mark.
Whether the case will finally end in a vindication through the legal process and/or through the magnanimity of a political entity, the sense of urgency infects us all; the clock continues to tick, and time is of the essence. So we keep on pounding and knocking on the door, asking justice for Mary Jane.
But we ask those who aspire to lead this nation of poor, exploited and distressed migrant workers and their families who prop up the economy: Beyond the rhetoric and promises, how do you concretely address both the root causes and the immediate needs of forced migrants?
What is in store after the elections for the likes of Mary Jane? Have they been forgotten amid the electoral din and vicious mudslinging?
Or have we forgotten the horrific pain and lessons of the “execution island” in Nusakambangan? Have the images there become hazy memories?
We dread to relive the days of frenzy and nights of despair. We do not want to be forced to apologize for failing Mary Jane, her family and all migrant workers for not bringing Darren and Daniel’s mom back home alive.
After six years, let’s bring her back home—already.
—EDRE U. OLALIA, EPHRAIM CORTEZ, MA. CRISTINA YAMBOT-TANSECO, MINERVA LOPEZ, JOSALEE DEINLA, Philippine private counsels, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, [email protected]
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