Ahead of Marcos' first state visit, Mary Jane Veloso’s parents ask help on clemency

Kaycee Valmonte - Philstar.com
Ahead of Marcos' first state visit, Mary Jane Veloso�s parents ask help on clemency
Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion and detained overseas Filipino worker’s father Cesar Veloso present a letter of appeal urging President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to ask Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo to grant Mary Jane executive clemency on humanitarian grounds.
Philstar.com / Kaycee Valmonte

MANILA, Philippines — Ahead of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s first ever state visit, parents of detained overseas Filipino worker Mary Jane Veloso are calling on the new chief executive to ask Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo to grant their daughter executive clemency on humanitarian grounds.

Veloso’s parents are hoping that Marcos will come back to the Philippines with their daughter.

“Mahigit na po labingdalawang taon siya sa piitan at nakawalay sa kanyang dalawang anak,” Celia and Cesar Veloso wrote in their letter to the president, a copy of which was sent through the Department of Migrant Workers on Friday.

(She has spent over 12 years in prison and has been separated from her two children for that long.)

Marcos will be visiting Indonesia next week, his trip lasting from September 4 to 6, upon the invitation of Widodo before heading to Singapore. It will be Marcos' first trip abroad as the country’s chief executive, where he is expected to seal key agreements in defense and culture. 

He will be accompanied by Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo and Migrant Workers Susan “Toots” Ople, along with the country’s economic managers.

Manalo during an appopriations hearing with the House of Representatives earlier this week said that Marcos will “most likely” raise Veloso’s case while in Indonesia.

Both the Department of Migrant Workers and the Department of Foreign Affairs held back from giving more details on the country’s plan for the detained OFW.

“We might preempt the discussions that will happen during his visit to Indonesia,” DFA Spokesman Amb. Ma. Teresita Daza said in a briefing on Friday afternoon.

12 years behind bars

Veloso boarded the plane after being recruited as a household worker headed for Malaysia. However, she was arrested in April 2010 when she arrived at ??the Yogyakarta Adisucipto International Airport. 

She was found with 2.6 kilograms of heroine sewn into the lining of her luggage. 

She escaped death row in 2015 after it was argued that she could testify in human trafficking cases. Veloso maintained innocence and said it was her recruiters who were behind the scheme. 

Migrante International, a coalition of grassroots OFW groups and their families, emphasized that Veloso's miracle was made possible through the courage of her parents, migrant and women’s advocates in Indonesia, lawyers there and back home, and human rights defenders in the Philippines.

“From prayer vigils, protest actions and demonstrations, petition signing and lobbying, thousands of people in the Philippines and across the world mobilized to support Mary Jane and the Veloso family, whose lives mirrored the plight of countless migrants who become vulnerable to human trafficking because of their poor economic status and forced to find work abroad to survive,” Migrante International said in a statement. 

Her recruiters, Maria Kristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, have since been imprisoned after they were found guilty of illegal recruitment and estafa.

READ: Nueva Ecija court convicts Mary Jane recruiters 

“Ang anak po namin na si Mary Jane ay napilitang lumabas ng bansa upang maghanapbuhay na bitbit ang pangarap na makaahon kami sa kahirapan at mabigyan ng maayos na buhay at mapag-aral ang kanyang mga anak,” her parents said.

(Our daughter was forced to leave the country to earn a living, bringing with her our dream of getting out of poverty as well as giving her children a good life and a good education.)

Veloso last called her family two days ago and her father said that she was still keeping faith.

“Alam ko po na ang Panginoon ay tumutulong sa atin, alam ko po na magsasama-sama tayo muli (I know that the Lord is helping us, I know that we will all be together again),” Cesar quoted her saying. 

Asking Marcos' help

Cesar Veloso said they first reached out to President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, who was then the president when Mary Jane narrowly escaped death row after Aquino reportedly “broke protocol” for her case. Her family said they have since been “passed around” to different officials. 

Meanwhile, the family said they did not ever hear from then President Rodrigo Duterte despite him saying that he will reach out to the family directly after a state visit.

Marcos promised that his government will pursue a fight against human trafficking

“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,” Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion. 

READ: OFW group Migrante calls on next admin to act on Mary Jane Veloso’s deposition 

Migrante International emphasized that Marcos should raise Veloso’s case as a key priority for the country.



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