Case Profile: Mary Jane Veloso

mj2Case:                                   Sentenced to Death for Drug Trafficking

Residence:                       Brgy. Caudillo, Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija

Current Location:       Wirogunan Penitentiary, Yogyakarta, Indonesia


Background of the Case

Mary Jane comes from a poor family in Nueva Ecija. They resorted to picking plastics and other recyclable materials because the pay from Mary Jane’s father as a seasonal worker in Hacienda Luisita was never enough.  She is the youngest among 5 children. She only made it to first year high school, married early, and had two children.

In the hopes of improving the lives of her family and providing education for her children, she went to Dubai in 2009 to work as household service worker. However, she returned to Manila before her two-year contract ended because her employer attempted to rape her.

On 18 April 2010, Mary Jane was approached by her friend Ma. Cristina Serio (a resident of Talavera, Nueva Ecija) and was told that her Malaysian friend needs a domestic worker.  She paid Cristina P20,000, a motorcycle and her cell phone to cover employment costs.  She was illegally recruited.

April 22, they left for Malaysia.  She only packed two t-shirts and pants.  Upon arrival, Cristina informed Mary Jane that her prospective job was already closed but she re-assured her that she will get a job for her. Mary Jane stayed for another 3 days in Malaysia. Cristina brought her in many places in Malaysia, took photos, shopped for clothes and personal needs.

Airport Incident

On 25 of April, Cristina told Mary Jane to pack her things, and that she had to leave for Indonesia for work.  At first, she was hesitant since she did not have money for the ticket. Cristina told her that she did not have to worry.  She handed Mary Jane an empty suitcase, put her clothes in and gave her money.

Upon arrival at the Jogiakarta Airport in Indonesia, as she was about to pass through the x-ray machine, airport personnel detected suspicious items in her suitcase.  Her luggage was immediately checked, they took out all what was inside but found nothing.  Again, she put it in the machine which again detected something prompting airport personnel to destroy her luggage.  The 2.6 kilos of heroin valued at US$500,000 was neatly packed in the inner part of her baggage.

Imprisonment and Trial

Mary Jane cheers up her mother Celia when she was visited by her family in prison in 2013. The jail visit was made possible by contributions from her inmates and jail guards.
Mary Jane cheers up her mother Celia when she was visited by her family in prison in 2013. The jail visit was made possible by contributions from her inmates and jail guards.

On May 9, (on her father’s birthday), she called home and talked to her mother.  The latter could not understand what her daughter was saying.

On 11 May 2010, Mary Jane texted her sister Darling: “Nanay, tatay, mahal na mahal ko kayong lahat.” (Mother, Father I love you all very much). She also mentioned the names of her sons Mark Daniel and Mark Darren, her siblings.  She did not explain what happened. The next day, her family tried to call her several times. When they finally contacted her, Mary Jane told her sister Darling, “Ate nakulong ako” (I’m imprisoned).

Immediately, on May 13, her mother and her sister Maritess went to Manila to seek help from the media. One TV station rejected them, her case was difficult to handle according to them. Another media outfit refused to allow them to enter their premises. They proceeded to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and received a promise that the government will look into her case and provide assistance.

Since then, for more than 2 years of follow-ups nothing happened until they got exhausted.  They got no substantial answer from the DFA except that they are doing all they can to help Mary Jane. The Philippine government did not provide her any legal assistance from investigation to her conviction.

According to Agus Salim, Mary Jane’s Indonesian lawyer, she wasn’t able to defend herself well:

  • She was not given a lawyer or translator when the police were interrogating her in Bahasa Indonesia, which she did not understand at the time.
  • During her trial, the court-provided interpreter – a student at a foreign language school in Yogyakarta who was not licensed by the Association of Indonesian Translators – translated the proceedings from Bahasa Indonesia to English, which Mary Jane was not fluent in.
  • Her lawyer at the time was a public defender provided by the police.

As the brief trial came to a close in October 2010 – just 6 months after she was arrested –prosecutors asked the court to sentence Mary Jane to life imprisonment. But the judges instead handed down a death sentence.

On 5 June 2013, the family (Veloso’s parents – Celia and Cesar Veloso, her two children Mark Daniel and Mark Darren) went to Indonesia to visit her.  The visit was made possible through financial help of her fellow inmates and jail guards who contributed money for their air fare, passport, among other, a total of P82,000 and expenses during their one-month stay in Indonesia.

Developments of the Case since the Death Verdict

In August 2011, President Noynoy Aquino submitted an appeal for clemency on behalf of Mary Jane to then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. At the time, Indonesia had a moratorium on executions and the clemency request was not acted upon.

In October 2014, the new Indonesian president, Joko Widodo (Jokowi), was sworn in. Shortly after, he declared war against drug trafficking and rejected all the clemency requests from drug convicts on death row.

Last January 2015, President Jokowi rejected a batch of clemency appeals that included Mary Jane’s. Lawyers hired by the Philippine government quickly filed a request for a judicial review (January 19), the final legal option open to her in the Indonesian justice system.

On February 9, 2015, Aquino raised Mary Jane’s case with Jokowi, during his first state visit to the Philippines. Later that same month, on February 19-21, the government facilitated the jail visit of Mary Jane’s mother, sister and two children. She was also visited by DFA Secretary Alberto Rosario on March 24.

The Appeal for Judicial Review

On March 3 to 4, 2015, a two-day trial was held in Sleman to determine whether there was new evidence in Mary Jane’s case. Lawyers argued she deserved a case review because she wasn’t given a capable translator. The head of the foreign language school in Yogyakarta testified that the translator at the time was indeed their student.

To support Veloso’s case, her lawyers cited as precedent the Supreme Court’s decision in 2007 commuting the death sentence of another convicted drug smuggler, Thai national Nonthanam M. Saichon, also because of the translator issue.

But on March 25, the Indonesian Supreme Court rejected the case review request.

Save the Life of Mary Jane!

Mary Jane’s home in Cabanatuan serves as the center for the clamor to save her life.
Mary Jane’s home in Cabanatuan serves as the center for the clamor to save her life.

The Philippine government, in their last ditch effort to save Mary Jane, intends to file a second petition for judicial review. But it’s not clear if this is allowed in Indonesia’s judicial system. Mary Jane’s lawyers are still studying the next legal options available.

UN Special Rapporteur Christof Heyns on extrajudicial executions has also appealed to Pres. Wododo to stop the executions on the basis that the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported information that suggests that Mary Jane 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.

Meanwhile, Migrante International and Migrante Sectoral Party, together with Mary Jane’s family in Cabanatuan City launched the campaign to gather and galvanize massive support to save her life. Together with the members of the [email protected], a network remembering the death of Flor Contemplacion (a Filipino domestic helper who was hanged to death after being accused of murder), spearheaded a call for urgent action to push the Indonesian government to spare Mary Jane from deathrow. ###