The family of Mary Jane Veloso, the 30-year-old Filipina sentenced to death in Indonesia, held a press conference in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs main office in Manila today and demanded an explanation on why the Philippine government failed to give much-needed legal assistance and protection for their loved one.
According to Mary Jane’s mother, Celia, the DFA is lying through its teeth when it says that legal assistance and counsel were provided Mary Jane by the Philippine government. “Limang taon, walang abugado. Ngayon lang nagkaroon dahil malapit na. Ilang beses kaming tumatawag at pabalik-balik sa DFA, walang humaharap sa amin. Walang nagsasabi sa amin ng status ng kaso niya. Hanggang sa nagsawa na kaming lumapit. Naisip namin na iipunin na lang namin ang perang pamasahe namin at ipapadala na lang kay Mary Jane para may panggastos naman siya sa kulungan.”
Agus Salim, Mary Jane’s Indonesian lawyer, also said that Mary Jane was not able to defend herself because she was not given a lawyer or a translator when the police interrogated her upon arrest; during her trial, the court-provided interpreter – a student at a foreign language school in Yogyakarta – was not duly-licensed by the Association of Indonesian Translators; and, her lawyer for the most part of her hearings was a public defender provided by the police. This last detail corroborates the family’s claim that no proper legal counsel was given Mary Jane by the Philippine government, contrary to what the DFA has claimed in news reports and press releases.
Mary Jane’s sister, Maritess, cited an instance when she went to the DFA: “Sinabihan ako ng isang nagpakilalang attorney daw ng DFA. Sabi niya tanggapin na lang daw namin na mabibitay na ang kapatid ko. Ano’ng klase iyon? Sa halip na palubagin ang loob namin at sabihing ginagawa nila ang lahat para maligtas ang kapatid ko, ganoon ang sasabihin. Bakit ganoon? Tapos tumatawag kami, tawag kami ng tawag walang sumasagot. Kumilos lang sila noong huli na ang lahat.”
Celia said even their first visit to Mary Jane last June 3, 2013 was made possible not by the Philippine government but through the financial help of her fellow inmates and jail guards who contributed money for their airfare, passport and other expenses during their one-month stay in Indonesia.
For his part, Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson, said, “Heads must roll. While we continue to not lose hope, we also demand accountability from the government for their criminal neglect. Like others before her, Mary Jane was denied due process to defend herself and prove her innocence. We see a pattern here, a deadly pattern of lip service and abandonment. A deadly pattern that had so far claimed the lives of seven (7) Filipinos on death row abroad.”
Since the Aquino administration took office in 2010, seven Filipinos have been executed abroad – the biggest number of executions under one term since the Philippines started its labor export policy in the 1970s.
“Ano ang ginagawa ng presidente natin? Nasaan siya ngayon? Hinahamon siya ng pamilya Veloso, patunayan niyang kami talaga ang boss niya. Ipakita niyang may president kaming tunay na magtatanggol sa amin. Bakit wala kaming naririnig mula sa kanya?” Maritess said. ###