Kin of maid in death row: DFA abandoned her
With time running out on Mary Jane Veloso, the family of the Filipino on death row in Indonesia for alleged drug smuggling on Monday lashed out at the Aquino administration for what it said was a clear abandonment of her case.
Joining a picket outside the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Veloso’s sister, Marites Laurente, said officials handling her case had slept on it for five years with no clear intention of saving her.
With Laurente were her mother Celia, father Cesar, Veloso’s two children and about a dozen members of the militant Migrante International carrying a streamer urging “Save the life of Mary Jane.”
“This is the first time we will tell this. The government had abandoned her. We were promised that the embassy officials would constantly update us on the case. But they never did that. I was the one calling them,” Laurente said over a microphone.
Laurente said most of their calls to the DFA had gone unanswered. “We were told either their officials were out of town or on vacation,” she said.
“We have done everything we can, I can’t think of anything that we haven’t done,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario told reporters last night. “If anyone can think of other ways, maybe they could give that suggestion to us.”
Del Rosario said President Aquino talked about Veloso’s case with President Joko Widodo during the Indonesian leader’s visit in February and had written Jakarta several letters pleading clemency for her.
The family of Mary Jane Veloso, a 30-year-old mother of two boys from Cabanatuan City, believes she is innocent.
Even DFA officials considered Veloso a victim of a drug trafficking syndicate that had duped her into carrying luggage containing 2.611 kilograms of heroin from Malaysia to Indonesia where she had been promised a job.
In a last-minute effort to save her, the Philippines sent a team from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Philippine National Police to meet Veloso and prepare a new appeal.
“We are exhausting all venues to get all the facts that we need for our second appeal for a judicial review. What we want to emphasize is that she is not part of the syndicate but she is a victim,” said Francisco Noel Fernandez, special assistant at the DFA’s office of migrant workers’ affairs.
Fernandez faced the protesters and Veloso’s family outside the DFA, denying their claims about the government’s supposed neglect. “Our embassy officials were always present during her trial,” Fernandez said.
Plea to Aquino
“Mr. President, prove to us that you are our president. Make us feel it. Please do something,” Laurente said in between sobs.
Veloso’s mother Celia broke down in tears appealing for Aquino’s intervention in the case.
“We have been appealing for help for five years. We were just quiet. But now we might lose our daughter. Have mercy, Mr. President. Save her,” she said.
The family said Veloso’s only mistake was trusting her “kinakapatid” (godsister) Christina who had promised her a job in Malaysia at first and then Indonesia.
In April 2010, Mary Jane traveled from Manila to Kuala Lumpur to work as a domestic helper.
In Kuala Lumpur, Christina reportedly told Veloso that she would get her a job in Indonesia instead. Before the flight to Yogyakarta, she bought Veloso new clothes and luggage. Veloso claimed she did not know the bag contained heroin wrapped in aluminum foil.
Veloso was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2010 but the decision was later changed to death by firing squad.
In 2011, President Aquino submitted an appeal for clemency. “But they slept on it. It was not acted upon. President Aquino was satisfied by just submitting the appeal for clemency,” Connie Bragas Regalado, chair of the Migrante party-list, said.
When Widodo came to the Philippines for a state visit, the first item on the agenda was combating drug trafficking, Regalado said.
Veloso is one of 10 foreign nationals recently convicted of drug smuggling in Indonesia.
But despite the recent decision of Indonesia’s Supreme Court rejecting Veloso’s appeal for judicial review, her family still hopes her life will be spared.
“(Veloso) told us she wanted to see us before she is executed, that maybe that is her fate. But we would not accept that. We still believe it won’t happen to her,” said Celia.
Veloso’s sons echoed the family’s appeal. Her youngest son, 6-year-old Darren, sang “Maghintay ka lamang,” to convey his wish that his mother’s life will be spared.
Speaking at a radio station in Cabanatuan City in Nueva Ecija, Vice President Jejomar Binay said there was still a “big chance” that Veloso would get clemency.
He said he had asked the National Bureau of Investigation to track down and arrest the person who had given the bag containing heroin to Veloso. With a report from Christine O. Avendaño
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