Families and supporters demand justice for slain Abu Dhabi OFW Mary Jean Alberto. Holds picket-dialogue at OWWA.

More than three weeks have passed but the bereaved family of Mary Jean Alberto is yet to hear about the results of the forensic investigation on her remains. Mary Jean Alberto is a single mother of three who was hired as a family driver for a Moroccan Family. Waiting for her license, she found herself being ordered by her employer to do household work. Mary Jean really felt dejected realizing that she was really hired as such upon receiving her visa indicating that she was registered as a housemaid.

The family learned about her gruesome death after they were informed by her Moroccan employer that she committed suicide by jumping off from the 13th floor of a high-rise residential building. For her sons Ronel and Rojan, they believe that there was foul play behind the death of their mother. How can the Moroccan employer claim that the thudding sound when Mary Jean fell was heard all the way from their bedroom on the 13th floor where they were sleeping as they claim? These are the questions Mary Jean’s grieving loved ones are asking.

 

Prior to her death, Mary Jean has already sent distressing messages and photos of her bruises to her sister, her daughter Rohjean and her former co-worker Rose pleading to be rescued from her dire situation. Without regular rest days, Mary Jean was overworked to starvation from 5:00 am to 3:00 am. On the 1st of October, just a day before she died, Mary Jean sent her last message stating that her employer attempted to strangle her. 

Hinging on these accounts, Migrante International sides with the family in their refusal to believe that their mother really committed suicide. Mary Jean wanted to return alive to her family that is why she made known her cries for help. 

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Mary Jean’s grieving family has been going to and fro, from one government agency to another asking for assistance. Her sons are now due to hold a dialogue with OWWA which is another agency inappropriately named to purport that it works for the welfare of OFWs. In reality, it has only become an extortionate coffer that myopically sees itself as a fund manager of monetary contributions from OFW members. 

Now on their own and without their breadwinner, how will the Alberto family face a future in our country wrecked with uncertainties and economic difficulties? As they meet with OWWA administrator Hans Leo Cacdac, we hope that they will get the services they deserve to help them with funeral and burial expenses, get scholarships and livelihood assistance. 

Desirably, OWWA should work for the welfare of OFWs primarily because they are overseas Filipino workers and not because of their OWWA payments. It should work true to its name for the welfare of OFWs, both documented and undocumented alike. Instead, it has been functioning as if it is a business entity. 

In the same deplorable manner, it took 11 days before the Philippine Embassy was able to provide a lawyer to process her death certificate and reclaim her belongings. By that time, the employer’s house has already been cleared of all possible pieces of evidence vital for the investigation. For a government accustomed to procrastination, we see this as a denial of justice for Mary Jean Alberto. OFW victims do not deserve this kind of treatment. 

The family and loved ones left behind by Mary Jean are already struggling with the pain of this tragedy while bearing the brunt of government procrastination and neglect. We demand that the government do its part and ensure close coordination with the family as investigation continues. Migrante International is one with the Alberto family in their quest for justice and in their desire for a speedy resolution to Mary Jean’s case. Most of all, we want an end to the government’s virulent labour export program that has sent vast numbers of OFWs back to the country inside caskets. 

 

Serbisyo, hindi negosyo!

End labour export!

Justice for Mary Jean Alberto!

Justice for Jean by Migrante

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“Uphold SC decision on Mary Jane’s deposition! Make it a reality!” — MJ Veloso’s supporters to PH government

Just less than a week away from the scheduled final RTC hearing on the presentation of prosecution witnesses, supporters of Mary Jane Veloso gathered anew to reiterate their call to uphold the Supreme Court decision allowing the deposition of her testimony through written interrogatories. 

In a press forum held at the UCCP National Office chapel in EDSA on Wednesday morning Atty. Edre Olalia from the National Union of People’s Lawyers elaborated on the significance of the recent SC decision and its implications on the local cases against accused traffickers Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao. “I cannot preempt the RTC judge’s ruling but there is already a Supreme Court decision. I’m sure the defense will have their chance to explain why there’s a need for deferment but it is about time that they ask themselves, why anyone should be afraid of the truth? If they really believe that their clients are innocent, would it not be beneficial that we hear it directly from Mary Jane speaking to us whether the accused traffickers are really involved or not?” Olalia asked.

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“We want to see and hear both sides but how can we equally hear both sides when they (PAO: Public Attorneys Office) keep on gagging her down to the gallows? God forbid but perchance she gets executed because of these numerous motions set by the legal counsel of the accused, will they be willing to hold themselves accountable for the life of Mary Jane? There can no longer be any motion for consideration in heaven. Nobody can bar the testimony of a material witness. Do not keep on invoking legal niceties and technicalities because this is not just about Mary Jane. We have so many OFWs victimised by human traffickers and illegal recruiters. The legal counsel of the accused will have their chance to cross examine Mary Jane’s written testimony.” Olalia added.

Olalia then directed attention to the relation of MJ’s case on Duterte’s war on drugs. “The Duterte government is claiming that it is waging war against drugs and they should be aware that Mary Jane as a victim, knows vital information about this international drug trafficking syndicate involving drug trafficking criminals from West Africa and other countries. This should help trace the flow of their criminal operations that have victimized unsuspecting OFWs.”

Asked about how the government can relate to these legal developments, Olalia said, “They really don’t have to wait for a decision from the RTC case here. The defense are due to present 30 of their witnesses. Are we going to wait for them to complete their presentation with only one hearing every month for one or two of their witnesses? We are afraid that these witnesses will only be there to claim that the accused couple Sergio and Lacanilao are kind people but that it is not the main issue. The main issue is their direct involvement in human trafficking against Mary Jane.” 

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The lawyers’ group NUPL represented by Olalia has long been active on the Mary Jane campaign. He added, “The key not only lies with legal strategies. There are other things that can be done to keep Mary Jane alive and be able to speak. We can continue to plead and implore. After all, the Supreme Court has already made a lot of statements on where the decision should lead. The government can work on Mary Jane’s behalf, either for commutation or for other ways that will pave the way for her eventual freedom.”

Expressing elation over the SC decision, Rev. Frank Hernando, the current Executive Secretary for Administration of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, worked for 14 years ministering to Filipino migrants in South Korea. He said, “The Church is very active and passionate in defending the rights and saving lives of OFWs. This is the consequence of Forced migration on Filipinos who are seeking better lives abroad. UCCP sent letters to SC urging the judicial authorities to allow MJ to testify. This will help other Filipino trafficking victims who are in jail. Di lang si MJ ang nagkaroon ng ganitong kaso (It’s not only MJ who have this case).”

Representing CWWM (Churches Witnessing with Migrants), Church Task Force for Mary Jane and PIMAHT or Philippine Interfaith Movement Against Human Trafficking, Rev. Marie Sol Villalon said, “We hope that before the 28th of October, we’ll hear the Duterte government committing to save Filipino victims of trafficking and all the rest of OFWs who are now suffering because of forced migration and the government’s labour export program.”

Grateful to all their supporters, Cesar Veloso, father of Mary Jane said, “We are very thankful to the Supreme Court for giving the chance to my daughter to testify. I hope that she will finally get her freedom and be reunited with us. I am very grateful to the lawyers and to all the supporters, if it were not for them, we would have been clueless on what to do. When Mary Jane’s sons heard about the SC decision, they really leaped for joy. They are looking forward to having their mother come home. We recently visited Mary Jane in prison, she was full of hope and she kept on encouraging us. I urge everyone to keep us in your prayers. We are calling on PAO to allow Mary Jane to speak.”

Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion lamented that it took almost ten years before Mary Jane was given the chance to finally speak against her traffickers. Concepcion stated, “This case is very important not only for Mary Jane Veloso but also for all victims of human trafficking. Up to this moment, we are still asserting that Mary Jane is indeed a trafficking victim and must be given the chance to present her testimony. She should never be silenced. Thousands of OFWs are unjustly locked in jails, many of whom are victims of government neglect without any access to lawyers. Once we succeed in getting MJ’s testimony, it will be considered an unprecedented legal victory and a precedent that will be beneficial for many OFWs faced by similar situations.”

A caravan organized by Mary Jane’s supporters is expected to head to the Branch 88 of the Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Court on the 28th of October to attend the scheduled hearing on the trafficking cases against Sergio and Lacanilao. 

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Sons of slain Abu-Dhabi OFW Mary Jean Alberto demand justice

“We will never believe that Mama committed suicide,” Ronel Alberto asserted as he expressed frustration on the slow pace of the ongoing investigation on the case of his mother Mary Jean Alberto. Ronel is Mary Jean’s eldest son.

Mary Jean Alberto is a 44-year old OFW working for a Moroccan employer in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Her family heard of her death after being told by Mary Jean’s female employer via phone call on 2 October. 

She originally went to Abu Dhabi for a job offer as a family driver but later found herself doing household work, cleaning the house and serving as a nanny to her Moroccan employers’ 3-year old child. 

Justice for Jean by Migrante

Rojan Alberto, youngest child of Mary Jean said that it is impossible that their mother died of suicide. “We have always known her as a strong woman. She never failed to give us words of encouragement whenever we faced problems. Days before we found out about our mother’s death, we can no longer contact her so we were very worried knowing that she has already been being subjected to maltreatment and abuse at the hands of her employers.”

Mary Jean’s sons also recounted that their mother is always gripped by fear whenever they talk to her on the phone through video call or on social media. She also sent photos showing her bruises after being physically assaulted by her employers.  

“What’s really suspicious is that our mother’s employer claims that on the day of Mama’s death, she was awoken by a loud thud on the ground so she got up from bed and saw a lot of policemen. How can she even hear that when their unit is on the 13th floor of a high rise building?” Rojan said.

Ronel also recounted the difficulties that their family experienced from following up on their mother’s case from government agencies like DFA in Manila and Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi . They were told that the only thing government agencies could do is to repatriate her remains. “Without even asking for the cause of Mama’s death, the first thing they asked me is if I brought the requirements.”

Rohjean, eldest daughter of Mary Jean, just received Mary Jean’s death certificate last October 13. However, the cause of death was not indicated on the death certificate. Her children fear that there could be whitewash on their mother’s case.

“We want justice for Mama. This is what we are asking from the government,” Ronel and Rojan concluded. 

Marina Sarno, Spokesperson of SANDIGAN or Samahan ng mga DH sa Gitnang Silangan said, “We strongly stand with the Alberto family in their quest to attain justice for Mary Jean Balag-ey Alberto. Like the Alberto family, we have also experienced government inaction after suffering from the hands of our cruel employers.” 

Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion said that it is important that the Duterte goverment takes the demands of the Alberto family seriously. She then urged the Philippine government to work closely with Abu Dhabi authorities to conduct an impartial investigation and facilitate the repatriation of her remains. “The Duterte government must strictly coordinate with the family and never withhold any information. As long as the perpetrator is not made liable, we will continue to seek justice for Mary Jean Alberto.”

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On the SC ruling allowing Mary Jane Veloso to testify

Migrante International welcomes the Supreme Court decision to finally allow Mary Jane Veloso to give her testimony against her traffickers through written deposition. With this ruling, Mary Jane will be able to bring to light the horrors of her ordeal. This will likewise allow the authorities in the Philippines and Indonesia to examine how big international drug and human traffickers victimize unsuspecting migrant workers and travellers. It shall also serve as a precedent for overseas Filipinos who may in troublesome circumstances later find themselves victims of human trafficking and illegal recruitment. 

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PHOTO: Rappler

We recognize that this significant SC decision is also engendered by the untiring efforts of Mary Jane’s family and supporters who refused to just let her case be swept away into oblivion. Migrante International is grateful to all those who stood by with the Veloso family right from the beginning up to this latest phase in her family’s legal battle here in the Philippines. We thank our allies both here and abroad for their outpouring of support in our last ditch effort to ensure that Mary Jane be presented as the prosecution’s last witness on October 28 which is the final court hearing set by the Nueva Ecija RTC for the presentation of prosecution witnesses.

Our hopes are now high that with Mary Jane’s presentation of her written testimony, it shall make way for that much awaited moment when she will be finally reunited with her loved ones in the Philippines. More than ever before, Migrante International will continue to fight for the rights and welfare of Filipino migrants and their families, more so for those who are in the most adverse situations. 

 

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Let Not Mhelody Bruno Be Just Another Statistic – Let Justice Be Hers!

Migrante Australia, a national alliance of Filipino migrant organisations raises concern over the death of Filipino transgender woman Mhelody Bruno, 25 years old, who was reportedly killed while on holiday in Australia. The police reported that Mhelody was found unresponsive in a home unit on Tarcutta Street, Wagga Wagga, where paramedics conducted CPR before bringing her to the hospital. Despite efforts to revive her, she died shortly after 10:00AM on Sunday, 22 September 2019. Mhelody was about to return to the Philippine but she was killed just a week before her flight home.

We extend our heartfelt condolences to Mhelody’s family in Surigao and will do what we can to assist them in this time of grief and uncertainty. We echo their cry for justice for the crime committed against Mhelody Bruno.

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PHOTO: Rappler

This is the second time this year that a Filipino national died whilst working in regional Australia. Last March 2019, Jerwin Royupa was killed allegedly after jumping from a vehicle following an altercation with his employer. His death remains unresolved.

Also about two years ago, Charma Annear was brutally murdered by her estranged husband in November 2016 in the remote country town of Laverton, Western Australia. The WA Supreme Court found Mr Mervin Annear, guilty of manslaughter and was sentenced in April 2018 with 10-years imprisonment.

This spate of violent and suspicious deaths of Filipino nationals experiencing exploitation as migrant workers or as tourists must be stopped and the Australian criminal justice system must do its work to bring justice to the families of these victims.

We call on all concerned government agencies and the Filipino community in Australia to extend support and assistance to Mhelody Bruno’ family as they seek justice and the repatriation of her body back to the Philippines.

We also extend the invitation of the Filipino community in Wagga Wagga to a Vigil for Mhelody/Justice for Mhelody on Monday, 1 October 2019, 7:00-10:00PM at Victory Memorial Gardens, Wagga Wagga, NSW.

Justice for Melody Bruno!

Migrante Australia P O Box 606, Laverton 3028, Australia * Email: migrante@ilpsaustralia.com Contacts: George (Butch) – 0413 041514(VIC); Mel – 0414 247154(WA);; Manny (Bebot) – 0404 105899(NSW) Lina – 0407 841010(NSW); Berlin – 0499 303911(Albury-Wodonga); Reyvi – 0421 116776(Vic) Steph – 0422 171969(VIC)

On the appointment of Mocha Uson as OWWA Deputy Executive Director

It is not a surprise that Duterte is recycling a degenerate like Mocha Uson. He needs to beef up his army of apologists and attack dogs to distract us from the worsening socio-economic conditions facing millions of Filipino people. Mocha Uson’s active participation in discriminating against and demonizing OFW activists who are critical and outspoken about his policies, poor record and criminal neglect in addressing their concerns serves Duterte’s political agenda in silencing organized voices who are defending their democratic rights.

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Duterte is putting the hard earned money of OFWs at easy disposal of a government official with a record of wasting people’s money in purveying fake news and senseless junkets. He has appointed someone whose actions are contradictory to the mandate of OWWA to care for the welfare of all OFWs, regardless of their beliefs, and whose actions have been more detrimental than helpful to the interests of our OFWs such as the “rescue mission” she co-organized in Kuwait last year– a publicity stunt that only placed the lives of our migrant workers in harm’s way.

It is clear that Duterte is not serious in resolving the mounting problems facing our OFWs and we are extremely concerned that discriminatory practices in the delivery of services to our OFWs who are not loyal to Duterte will be rampant.

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OFW and Church-based groups hope that SC will finally issue ruling on Mary Jane Veloso before 28 October to allow her to testify

With the petition for Mary Jane Veloso’s deposition still left hanging in the Supreme Court after more than a year, the prosecution went through the eye of the needle earlier to secure the green light for the presentation of its lone witness on 28 October. Supporters of Mary Jane Veloso heaved a sigh of relief after Nueva Ecija’s Regional Trial Court Branch 88 ruled in favour of the prosecution’s last ditch appeal. 

The Philippine Consul General has already made a commitment to appear at the 26 September court proceeding to present Mary Jane’s side but mandatory travel protocols prevented her from making it to the hearing. Meanwhile, the prosecution and supporters of Mary Jane are earnestly praying that the Philippine Supreme Court will finally grant Mary Jane Veloso the chance to present her testimony against her traffickers via written interrogatories before 28 October. 

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Edre Olalia of the National Union of People’s Lawyers argued that between the accused couple Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao on one side and Mary Jane Veloso who is a human trafficking victim facing the death sentence on the other side, there is justifiable ground for the reset in the quest to complete the whole picture regarding the involvement of big international drug syndicates in victimizing unsuspecting migrants or travellers.

“Let us allow Mary Jane Veloso to give her side for after all, the defense will have its chance to cross examine her. We have so many OFWs who are vulnerable to human traffickers and these OFWs may find themselves in a grave situation like that of Mary Jane even if they are only victims,” Olalia said. 

If perchance the SC remains unsettled on the petition to allow Mary Jane Veloso to testify in the human trafficking case against Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, prosecutors will have no other recourse but to present the Consul General as witness in her place. 

Once Mary Jane Veloso is allowed to prove through her testimony that she is really a trafficking victim, Olalia said that it may pave the way for permanent reprieve, pardon or commutation of the sentence.

Prior to the court session, supporters under Save Mary Jane Alliance conducted an ecumenical prayer service. In their prayer, they recited, “we pray that she will receive compassion.  We pray that she will be able to speak the truth and testify before this court.” After the hearing, it was followed by a fellowship lunch with members of the Veloso family and their supporters. 

In the evening, a 6:00 pm solidarity mass for Mary Jane Veloso was conducted at the Sta. Cruz Church in Binondo, Manila. Church-based groups from the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Migrante International along with other allies under the Save Mary Jane Alliance vowed to step up the campaign as letters of support poured in the past couple of weeks from various groups in the international community inquiring about latest developments on Veloso’s case and expressing their call to allow Mary Jane to testify. The letters were delivered straight to the Supreme Court. 

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