186 groups write to ask for Mary Jane Veloso's release for Women Emancipation Day

Kaycee Valmonte - Philstar.com
186 groups write to ask for Mary Jane Veloso's release for Women Emancipation Day
Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion and detained overseas Filipino worker’s father Cesar Veloso present a letter of appeal on September 2, 2022 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 — Celia Veloso, mother of detained Filipino Mary Jane Veloso, is asking Indonsia's Minister of Women and Empowerment and Child Protection Gusti Ayu Bintang Darmawati to finally free her daughter after over a decade of detention.

Nearly 200 organizations from the Philippines and abroad penned a separate request to free Veloso. The request comes ahead of Indonesia’s Women Emancipation Day on April 21.

"As a mother, it is very painful for me to see my daughter in jail when she did nothing wrong," her mother wrote. "My daughter has suffered for a wrong she has not committed."

Veloso has been behind bars for over a decade now but hopes for her release sparked after Indonesian President Joko Widodo granted clemency to a woman on death row for similar drug smuggling charges. 

READ: Death row convict granted ‘unprecedented’ clemency

"We vow to never stop until Mary Jane is free and reunited with her family. She and her family have already suffered so much," Joanna Concepcion, chairperson of Migrante International, said in a statement on Thursday. 

"We appeal to the Indonesian Women’s Minister to give attention to the pleas from the global community calling for clemency and Mary Jane’s immediate freedom"

The open letter was signed by the Good Shepherd Sisters, Institute for Interfaith Dialogue in Indonesia, International Migrants Alliance, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, among others. It was made available in English and Bahasa Indonesia. 

13 years in jail

Veloso was arrested in 2010 after officials caught her smuggling heroin sewn into the lining of her luggage upon her arrival in Yogyakarta at the Adisucipto International Airport. She was sentenced to death by firing squad months after her imprisonment. 

In April 2015, former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III personally appealed to the Indonesian government to grant Veloso clemency after her recruiters — those who tricked her into smuggling illegal drugs – already surrendered. 

"Women human trafficking victims like Mary Jane should be protected," the letter from the groups read. "While the real perpetrators of serious crimes such as illegal recruitment and human trafficking… should be prosecuted and convicted."

But it has been eight years since her reprieve and Veloso is now spending her 13th year in jail.

The latest attempt to ask the Indonesian government for executive clemency was made during President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s state visit there last year. 

READ: Philippines seeks executive clemency for Mary Jane Veloso

A mother's call for help

Prior to the Philippine delegation’s flight to Indonesia in September last year, parents of Veloso personally handed a letter to the Department of Migrant Workers hoping that Marcos Jr. would ask Widodo for executive clemency on their daughter’s behalf. 

The government did not announce that it would ask for clemency, with Department of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Amb. Ma. Teresita Daza said then that “we might preempt the discussions that will happen during his visit to Indonesia.”

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

The open letter cited the old age of Veloso’s parents, who have since developed health problems. Groups said her parents "are constantly fearful of not living long enough" to see her home. 

"[When] her life was spared from execution, we had a little bit of hope but once again the hearing of her case has stalled," Celia Veloso wrote. 

"I hope Mary Jane will be granted clemency because my daughter has experienced and endured a lot of hardships."

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