Three years ago, the world was witness to what collective action can do to create a “miracle.” An incarcerated innocent life was spared at the last minute. The Philippine government was given the opportunity to work for Mary Jane Veloso’s freedom and maximize her knowledge to help combat drug syndicates and human traffickers.
At the onset of the new regime, with President Duterte having strong commitments to end the illegal drugs industry and foster genuine protection for migrant workers, the Veloso family and most Filipinos were in high hopes.
Many were optimistic when Duterte stated last year that he has a stake on Mary Jane’s case and that President Jokowi’s visit would be an opportune time to discuss her fate. But in all the chances where the two leaders met, President Duterte was reticent when he could have had his opportunity to point out that elevating Veloso’s case is relevant and essential in strengthening the security of the two countries against human and drug trafficking.
Justice remains elusive after three years and Mary Jane still languishes in prison notwithstanding the dearth of evidence against her recruiters Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao who already admitted Mary Jane’s innocence.
The only statement Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque could put forward was that he doesn’t understand what exactly the President can do, which exposes the administration’s cluelessness on their role of interceding for OFWs on death row.
Worse, she is now being denied of her right to testify and to reveal the truth. The Philippine government itself, through its Court of Appeals has issued an order prohibiting Mary Jane from executing a statement that could prove her innocence and disclose the real culprits on the crimes that were imputed upon her. This is short of silencing Mary Jane and letting the big drug syndicates off the hook in tune with Duterte’s anti-drug policy of killing the poor while absolving drug ring leaders and their government protectors.
The plight of Mary Jane and the Veloso family is emblematic of the government’s failure to its people. Tatay Caesar Veloso was among the oppressed and scantily-paid sugar cane workers in Hacienda Luisita who for many years bore all the hardships of tilling the land he doesn’t own. Nanay Celia Veloso, on the other hand, was among the first of overseas workers in Saudi Arabia – a victim of abuse and maltreatment by her employers. Mary Jane’s four siblings later worked abroad and were also maltreated. Mary Jane is just among the more than 130 Filipinos on death row while thousands of others are serving jail sentences. Families like the Velosos are continually suffering from the unresolved social and economic problems plaguing Philippine society.
It has been three years since Mary Jane was given temporary reprieve and yet there still hasn’t been a single concrete action by the Philippine Government for Mary Jane’s clemency. The situation is once again calling us to end the injustice on Mary Jane. The Veloso family is calling on the people to make a collective action for her freedom.
This day has been marked as a Global Day of Action to Save Mary Jane Veloso. Starting today up to May 1st, various groups including all the chapters and allies of Migrante International will be holding assemblies and fora all across the globe to unite the people and remind the government that the struggle of Mary Jane lives on and that the fight for justice of Mary Jane and all the oppressed workers of the world must be courageously won.