‘Bring Mary Jane home,’ advocates urge Marcos

Groups say President should make Veloso’s release a priority in first-ever state visit

Migrant rights advocates urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr to appeal for clemency for jailed Filipina Mary Jane Veloso when he meets with Indonesian counterpart Joko Widodo next week.

On the occasion of Marcos Jr’s first ever state visit to a foreign country, Migrante International (MI) and the Church Task Force to Save the Life of Mary Jane Veloso (CTFSLMJV) said the new president should take the opportunity to bring Veloso home.

“[We urge] President Marcos to prioritize the case of Mary Jane Veloso, a victim of human trafficking who has been imprisoned and in death row in Indonesia,” both groups said in a statement Friday, September 2.

The groups added that Marcos should heed Veloso’s family’s ongoing petition for the Philippine government to appeal to Widodo to grant her clemency and release her on humanitarian grounds.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced on September 2 that Marcos chose Indonesia and Singapore as the first countries he would visit as president to “strengthen ties” with two of the Philippines’ geographically closes neighbors.

“As close neighbors and founding members of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations), the Philippines enjoys active engagement with Indonesia and Singapore in (a) myriad of areas including security and defense, trade and investment, people-to-people exchanges, and more,” DFA spokesperson Ambassador Teresita Daza said in a briefing.

In the case of Indonesia, Daza pointed out that both the Philippines and its closest neighbor are both archipelagic states that share an extensive, porous border and are close partners in maritime cooperation, a priority issue to be discussed by Marcos and Widodo.

Marcos is scheduled to meet Widodo from September 4 to 5 in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta for a series of discussions, including the renewal of a defense and security agreement between the two countries first signed in 1997.

Marcos’ chance

Both MI and CTFSLMJV however said Marcos should not forget about Veloso who had been on Indonesia’s death row in the last 12 years.

Arrested and convicted in April 2010 for smuggling 2.6 kilos of heroin into Indonesia in a suitcase, Veloso maintained she was unaware of the contraband and was only a victim of human trafficking.

Veloso’s execution by firing squad was stayed in 2015 pending the resolution of her appeal.

Meanwhile, her traffickers Maria Kristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao were found guilty of illegal recruitment and estafa by a Nueva Ecija court in January 2020 and are sentence to life imprisonment.

Bringing Veloso home would foster a message of hope to all overseas Filipinos who have fallen victims to human traffickers, Rev. Homar Distajo of the CTFSLMJV said.

“We continue to appeal for clemency or any other appropriate remedies that will allow Mary Jane to come home to the Philippines. Mary Jane can bring hope that there can be rescue for those used and abused through the trickery of traffickers, while also amplifying a strong message for migrant workers to be careful,” Distajo said.

MI meanwhile pointed out that Marcos mentioned about his government’s campaign against human trafficking in his first State of the Nation Address last July.

“If he is truly genuine in his commitment to combat the problem of human trafficking, he should exert all efforts to appeal to President Widodo to release Mary Jane under humanitarian grounds,” MI chairperson Joanna Concepcion said.

“As President Marcos journeys to Indonesia, we truly pray that the case of Mary will be a priority issue. It is now time to bring Mary Jane home,” Concepcion added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)