Migrante International today called on Filipinos around the world and the international community to intensify calls and appeals to save the life of Mary Jane Veloso, a 30-year-old mother-of-two sentenced to death by the Indonesian Supreme Court in April 2010 for drug trafficking.
Veloso’s case was submitted for judicial review but her appeal was rejected by the Indonesian Supreme Court last March 26. News reports state that Indonesia is preparing to transfer Veloso from the city of Yogyakarta to the maximum security prison in Nusakambangan Island of Central Java to await execution by firing squad.
Migrante believes that Veloso was not provided proper legal assistance, her case not thoroughly investigated and that she suffered a mistrial.
Too little, too late
“This is yet another case of the Philippine government doing too little, too late. She was arrested in 2010 and was not assigned a lawyer until the last minute. Had it not been for the international criticism that accompanied her fellow foreign inmates’ cases, we have reason to believe that the Philippine government would have once again opted to keep her case hush to evade public censure,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.
Martinez cited the case of Joven Esteva, an overseas Filipino worker who was executed for murder in Saudi Arabia just last March 9. “Esteva’s family expressed surprise and dismay because even they were kept in the dark. They only learned of Esteva’s execution along with the general public, after the fact, and when it already came out in the news.”
He said that Esteva had been the seventh Filipino on death row abroad executed within Pres. Aquino’s four years in office, the most number of executions under one regime since the Philippine labor export policy was implemented in the 1970s.
“We are deeply concerned for all Filipinos on death row and those in detention abroad. How many more can we expect to suffer the same fate? There are at least 125 more OFWs on death row, and at the rate the Aquino government is going, are we expected to accept more executions in the next few months? The government has not shown transparency nor accountability for failing to save the lives of our OFWs on death row. Puro last-ditch efforts. Malalaman na lang natin kapag bibitayin o nabitay na.”
The Indonesian government plans to execute 10 convicted foreign drug traffickers, including Veloso, all at once. Their cases have drawn international flak for Indonesian Pres. Joko Wododo after he rejected pleas by the United Nations and various governments for their clemency.
UN Special Rapporteur Christof Heyns on extrajudicial executions had also appealed to Wododo to stop the executions on the basis that the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported information that suggests that Veloso and her 14 other fellow accused were convicted after unfair trials. The same report attested that all of them did not receive sufficient legal services or the right to translators, and had no legal representation at all stages of their trials.
“Veloso was only provided a student translator during the course of her trials. She did not understand the proceedings. This was also the reason why Flor Contemplacion was forced to admit guilt prior to her execution in 1995. This remains one of the main reasons why many OFWs were executed particularly in the Middle East.” Martinez said.
No to another Flor Contemplacion!
Veloso was a domestic worker in Dubai from 2009 to 2010. She left Dubai and came back to the Philippines after her employer attempted to rape her. On April 22, 2010, she was illegally recruited by a friend to work as a domestic worker in Malaysia. When she arrived in Kuala Lumpur, the same friend told her that the job was not available anymore and that she would instead be transferred to Indonesia. It was there that she found out that she was tricked into carrying luggage containing heroin.
“Veloso was also a victim. She should not be executed. She was not only a victim of drug trafficking syndicates but also of government neglect,” Martinez said.
Martinez called on all families of Filipinos on death row to “come out now”. He said that other OFWs on death row, such as Dondon Lanuza, Marilou Ranario and Cecilia Alcaraz, were granted clemency after appeals to save their lives garnered enough national and international support.
“Wala tayong maasahan sa gobyernong ito. If there was one thing that we learned after Flor Contemplacion’s death, it is that only through our unity and collective action can we pressure governments to listen to our pleas. Like Veloso’s family, we are not losing hope. We call on all Filipinos around the world, on all OFWs and their families who have been neglected by this government, and advocates to join us in the call to save Mary Jane’s life.”
“The series of executions must be put to a stop. We demand an investigation on why there have been the most number of executions that pushed through under the Aquino regime. It had only been a week since we commemorated the death anniversary of Flor Contemplacion, when Malacanang said that OFWs have no basis to call for Aquino’s resignation. This is more than enough basis, and enough is enough. We do not want more OFWs to die of government failure and criminal neglect. We want Aquino out,” Martinez said. ###