Veloso ‘so sure’ of homecoming as Marcos flies to Indonesia
Mary Jane Veloso, a drug trafficking convict who, at 37, has spent a third of her life on death row in Indonesia, is optimistic she would soon be coming home to her two sons and her parents, hopefully with the help of President Marcos who is flying to Jakarta on Sunday.
On Tuesday, Veloso’s parents Cesar, 66, and Celia, 63, received a brief phone call from Mary Jane, according to her father. “She told us, ‘Tatay, Nanay, try to recover fast and regain your strength. With the Lord’s help we can be together again. I’m sure I’ll be home soon and we’ll see each other again.’ She was so sure about it,” Cesar told the Inquirer by phone on Friday.
The next day, they learned from the news that the President was coming to Indonesia for a state visit, and that he intended to raise Veloso’s case in his meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
The Velosos were so happy they could not sleep that night.
“We were still planning to ask for President Marcos’ help to have Mary Jane released, but he already acted on it. We are thankful,” Cesar said.
On Friday, Veloso’s parents traveled to Manila from Cabanatuan City in Nueva Ecija to deliver a letter to Marcos through the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), urging him to ask Widodo to extend clemency.
“We will be forever thankful if our daughter will be able to return at the soonest possible time, because she is innocent, and her only goal in working in a foreign land was to give her children a decent life they deserve,” the one-page letter read in part.
Cesar, along with members of the overseas workers group Migrante International, was received by DMW spokesperson Toby Nebrida in the agency’s office at Blas F. Ople Building in Mandaluyong City. Celia could not join them as she felt ill after the travel.
On Friday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed that Veloso’s case was on the agenda of the President’s bilateral meeting with Widodo.
But the DFA spokesperson, Teresita Daza, could not say if Marcos would directly ask for a presidential pardon for Veloso.
“I wish to defer in terms of discussing this further, largely because I think we might preempt the discussions that will happen in Indonesia,” Daza told reporters at an online predeparture briefing.
“But rest assured, as the Secretary (Enrique Manalo) mentioned during the budget hearing, that it is an issue that will be raised,” she said.
Migrante chair Joanna Concepcion said Migrant Workers Secretary Toots Ople would be joining the presidential delegation to Indonesia.
Nebrida gave assurance that Ople would personally hand over the letter to the President. “We are hoping that when President Marcos comes back to the country, he will bring Mary Jane back home with him, so she can finally be with her family again,” Cesar said.
Getting weaker every day
Veloso’s father said he wanted her to come home soon as “we are getting weaker every day.’’
“Before we die, we just want to embrace our daughter one last time,” he said.
Migrante International and a support group, the Church Task Force to Save the Life of Mary Jane Veloso, urged Marcos to prioritize her case during his visit.
“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 on humanitarian grounds,” Concepcion said.
Veloso, an overseas worker who had escaped a rape attempt in Dubai, was recruited to work as a domestic helper in Malaysia in 2010.
But en route to Malaysia, she was arrested in Indonesia after 2.6 kilos of heroin were found stashed in the lining of her suitcase.
Veloso was convicted of drug trafficking despite her defense that it was her recruiters who put the drugs in the bag.
Stay of execution
She was set to be executed by firing squad in April 2015 but a last-minute appeal by then President Benigno Aquino III to the Indonesian government earned her a reprieve.
Her job recruiters, Maria Kristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, were found guilty of illegal recruitment and estafa in 2020. They remain on trial on charges of human trafficking.
In August 2020, the Supreme Court ruled with finality that Veloso should be allowed to testify via deposition against her recruiters so as not to curtail her right to due process.
First official trip
Marcos will be in Indonesia from Sept. 4 to Sept. 6, his first official trip abroad as President. After Indonesia, he will be in Singapore from Sept. 6 to Sept. 7.
Besides Veloso’s case, Marcos and Widodo are expected to discuss areas of cooperation on defense, maritime border security, economic and people-to-people relations, and other “major issues affecting the region and the world,” Daza said.
The two leaders are set to formally adopt a five-year “Plan of Action” on a range of bilateral concerns and also preside over the renewal of the 1997 Agreement on Cooperative Activities in the Field of Defense and Security, to be signed by their defense chiefs.
The President will also meet with the Filipino community in Indonesia and Singapore “to personally assure them of the government’s continuing commitment to protect their rights and promote their welfare as overseas Filipinos,” Daza said.
Marcos to meet with Filipino communities in Indonesia, Singapore during state visits
SC leaves gov’t to handle Mary Jane Veloso deposition
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.