Family of Filipino maid on death row begs Indonesia for mercy
The family of Mary Jane Veloso on Wednesday made a last-minute plea to Indonesian President Joko Widodo for clemency for the Filipino maid facing the death penalty after being convicted of smuggling heroin.
Veloso’s parents, siblings and two young sons delivered an open letter to Widodo through the Indonesian Embassy and appealed for “mercy and compassion” for the 30-year-old single mother.
The letter said Veloso was tricked by a compatriot into carrying 2.6 kilograms (5.7 pounds) of heroin in a luggage and that she was a victim of drug syndicates.
Indonesia’s highest court last month rejected a judicial review petition by Veloso, who is among 10 foreign drug smugglers facing death by a firing squad.
“We are begging for mercy beloved President (Widodo), don’t impose the death penalty on my daughter, said Veloso’s mother, Celia Veloso.
Veloso’s sons, ages 6 and 12, held a placard that read “Mercy and compassion for Mary Jane and family.” About a dozen activists from Migrante International held up a large picture of Veloso behind bars and a banner saying “Save the life of Mary Jane Veloso.”
Gov’t pays for family’s visit
Veloso traveled to Indonesia in 2010 where her godsister reportedly told her a job as domestic worker awaited her. Her godsister allegedly provided the suitcase where the drugs were discovered when Veloso arrived at an airport in Java, Indonesia.
Malacañang yesterday remained firm that the government had been extending help to save Veloso, insisting that President Aquino had appealed for clemency in letters he had written to former Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Widodo.
“The Philippine government has exerted and continues to exert all legal and diplomatic means to save the life of Ms Veloso,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said.
Aside from this, the Department of Foreign Affairs had arranged and shouldered the cost of the visit of Veloso’s family to her in Yogyakarta.
At a prayer rally for Veloso at the Migrante office in Quezon City on Monday evening, Veloso’s family maintained that Cristina Serio, who had recruited Veloso supposedly to be a house helper in Indonesia, duped Veloso into being an unwitting drug mule.
Serio, known to the Veloso family as Tintin, is Veloso’s godsister and neighbor in Barangay Esguerra, Talavera, Nueva Ecija province. From what Veloso has told her family, it was Serio who recruited and brought her to be a house helper in Malaysia in April 2010.
Veloso’s sister, Maritess Laurente, said Serio accompanied Veloso to go to Malaysia. But upon reaching the country, Serio then claimed the original job was already occupied, and sent Veloso alone, with a brand-new bag, to another supposed job opening in Indonesia.
Heroin in bag lining
It was in the lining of this bag where 2.6 kilograms of heroin was discovered at the Yogyakarta airport on April 26, 2010, causing Veloso’s arrest.
Laurente said that upon learning over the phone of Veloso’s imprisonment in Indonesia on May 11, 2010, her family immediately confronted Serio in Barangay Esguerra.
“We talked to Tintin on the day we learned my sister was in jail. [Serio] said, ‘Don’t go to the media, don’t talk to anyone about this. I can have Mary Jane released, even if we have to pay millions. An international syndicate handles me. Just give me five months,’” Laurente said, quoting Serio in Filipino.
Veloso’s father Cesar confirmed the story, adding: “She [Serio] told us not to approach anyone because we may be killed by this syndicate.”
As it became apparent Serio could not deliver on her promise, the family eventually sought government and media help.
Aside from moving to bring Veloso’s case to light for the past five years, the family also sought to have Serio arrested, but with no success. “We’ve been trying to have her arrested, but we’ve been told we have no proof,” Cesar said.
Laurente said her family had approached the National Bureau of Investigation, the police, and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, but was told that they had no case against Serio. “First of all, [the crime] didn’t happen here. And they said only Mary Jane can file a complaint. But how can she do that when she’s in jail?” Laurente said.
Using 3 names
As of last week, the Veloso family received word from relatives in Barangay Esguerra that Serio was spotted packing up and leaving her house. The family, however, has gotten hold of a photo of Serio, in case authorities move to track her down.
Cesar says Serio uses three names, and is said to be from the Bicol region.
Laurente said Serio only started to become close to Veloso when the latter came back from Dubai in 2009. “We only knew [Serio] as someone who was always abroad. We thought she was engaged in a buy-and-sell business,” Maritess said.
Maritess maintained that though Veloso was well-aware that she was being recruited illegally as an overseas Filipino worker, she was an unwitting drug mule.
“When we visited her [in prison] last Feb. 18, I confronted her. I said, ‘Jane, tell me the truth. Did you really do it? Because Tintin said you did. She said ‘Ate, would I still deny it even if I’m about to die? You know I’m afraid of such things. Whatever happens, I will never admit to it because I really didn’t know,’” Maritess quoted Veloso as saying. With reports from Nikko Dizon, Jaymee T. Gamil and AP
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