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 youngest son.

Mary Jean Alberto is a 44-year old OFW working for a Moroccan family 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, eldest son 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 they experienced from following up on their mother’s case from goverment agencies like OWWA and DFA. 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 yesterday, 14th of October. 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 work 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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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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#LetMaryJaneSpeakTheTruth: Solidarity action for Mary Jane Veloso held before the Supreme Court during En Banc session 

Supporters of Mary Jane Veloso under the Save Mary Jane Alliance conducted a picket solidarity action before the Supreme Court in anticipation of the En Banc session that was set to convene Tuesday afternoon, 24 September 2019. Justices at the En Banc were expected to decide when to hear the petition for Mary Jane’s right to testify against her traffickers. 

Migrante Internatonal Chairperson Joanna Concepcion said, “as a victim of human trafficking, Mary Jane has the right to present her testimony against her traffickers. We entreat the Supreme Court to allow Mary Jane to speak the truth as various groups in the international community continue to seek updates on the latest developments about her case here in the Philippines.”

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Concepcion was referring to the outpouring of letters in the last couple of weeks sent by different organizations and institutions who are calling on the Philippine Supreme Court to intervene on her behalf. The letters were from different countries like USA, Canda, Italy, Australia, Hongkong, etc. Among the groups that sent its letter to the Supreme Court was the Presbyterian Church (USA) or PCUSA which is the largest Reformed denomination in the US. 

In its letter, PCUSA stated, “As a church, we pray that these legal proceedings will uphold Mary Jane’s individual worth and responsibility. As a human trafficking victim, these proceedings should help her to asser her rights, including the right to testify against her recruiters.”

Last week, the National Council of Churches in Australia representing 18 mainstream Christian denominations in Australia including the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church and the Lutheran Church stated in its letter, “Allowing Mary Jane to speak the truth gives voice to victims of human trafficking and affirms their rights as one of the most vulnerable and neglected in society. Giving a place to her parents Cesar and Celia as intervenors in the legal petition grants recognition to the legitimate and immediate stake of families who are lamenting the loss of their loved ones from illegal trafficking.”

The Philippine Interfaith Movement Against Human Trafficking (PIMAHT) wrote, “We reiterate our stand that Mary Jane Veloso is the face of many other victims of human trafficking and we firmly believe that she deserves the opportunity to speak the truth. Her statement is vital to shed light on the case, to penalize the perpetrators, and serve justice to Mary Jane and other victims.”

The Veloso family have been in Indonesia since 18 September last week for their visit to Mary Jane at the Wirogunan penitentiary in Yogyakarta. Celia and Cesar Veloso were joined by Mark Daniel and Mary Jane’s eldest sister Lea. They are set to arrive back in the Philippines Wednesday morning 25 September at NAIA Terminal 3. 

Also present during the solidarity action at the Supreme Court were Reverend Marie Sol Villalon of the United Methodist Church and Migrante Philippines Chairperson Arman Hernando. Both gave messages supporting the call to #LetMaryJaneSpeakTheTruth.

Since last week, over 20 other groups have already sent letters to the Supreme Court as the last hearing will be conducted by the regional trial court in Nueva Ecija on 26 September for the presentation of prosecution witnesses in the cases for human trafficking, illegal recruitment and estafa filed against Mary Jane Veloso’s recruiters namely Ma. Cristina P. Sergio and Julius Lacanilao.

The Save Mary Alliance will have solidarity activities on 26 September. An ecumenical prayer service will be held at 8:00 am in Nueva Ecija before the start of the court session at 8:30 am. In the evening, a solidarity mass for Mary Jane Veloso will likewise be held at the Sta.Cruz Church in Binondo, Manila at 6pm. 

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OFWs and Makabayan bloc file Supreme Court petition to stop mandatory SSS employer contribution from OFWs

NEWS RELEASE (27 August 2019)

OFWs and their families trooped to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, 27 August 2019 to lodge a legal petition to nullify the mandatory SSS exaction on OFWs under the Social Security Act of 2018. The petition filed was Certiorari and Prohibition with Prayer for Writ of Preliminary Injunction and/or Temporary Re-straining Order

Several OFWs are signatories on the petition including petitioners from Migrante International and Makabayan house representatives. Their petition sought to register their disapproval on requiring OFWs themselves to pay for employers’ contribution for the mandatory SSS in the absence of a bilateral agreement with the host country. 

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Respondents include SSS Chairman Carlos G. Dominguez III and Vice Chairman Aurora C. Ignacio. Other government agencies tagged as respondents are Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

In a belatedly convened public consultation by SSS on 3 May, Migrante International decried the absence of grassroots migrant organizations representing land-based OFWs during Senate deliberations for its draft version. It was signed into law as Republic Act No. 11199 by President Duterte on 7 February 2019. 

Bayan Muna Chairperson Neri Colmenares questioned the constitutionality of the mandatory SSS. He said, “we are here at the Supreme Court because this mandatory SSS exaction signed by President Duterte requiring OFWs to shoulder employer contributions in the absence of a bilateral agreement with the host country is unjust and unconstitutional.” 

Feliza Guy Benitez who worked for more than 20 years in Hong Kong was one of the petitioners. “By withholding their OECs (Overseas Employment Certificate) and not allowing them to be deployed if they don’t get to pay for their employer’s SSS contributions, we feel that OFWs will just be held as hostages by the Duterte government. It will be hard for us to be forced to pay for employer contributions that is why SSS coverage should remain voluntary and not mandatory,” Benitez asserted. 

According to Migrante Philippines Chairperson Arman Hernando, paying for both employee and employer contributions is burdensome for OFWs. “It is no secret that most OFWs are poorly paid. Many are even maltreated and get nothing at all. This is too much for OFWs to bear at a time when the prices of goods and services are soaring under Duterte’s watch,” Hernando lamented. 

Meanwhile, Filipino workers in Hongkong also conducted a picket action at the lobby of the Philippine Consulate led by Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion. She was joined by members of Gabriela Hongkong, Migrante Hongkong and Filipino Migrant Workers Union. 

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IN PHOTOS: Global Day of Mourning and protest vs. state-sponsored killings

 

In several cities overseas, Migrante International’s chapters and allies held their observance of the Global Day of Mourning to protest against state-sponsored killings in Negros, Philippines.

#DefendNegros #StopTheKillings 

 

AUSTRALIA

 

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CANADA

 

 

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FRANCE

 

 

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HONG KONG

 

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UNITED KINGDOM

 

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CHICAGO, USA

 

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IN PHOTOS: Migrante International at the United People’s SONA 2019 (Global protest actions)

PHILIPPINES

UPS2019

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Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion at the SONA ng BAYAN program held just outside the Commission on Human Rights compound in Quezon City.

 

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Marching from CHR, Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City

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AUSTRALIA

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CANADA

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FRANCE

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HONG KONG

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ITALY

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JAPAN

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NETHERLANDS

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NEW ZEALAND

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SAUDI ARABIA

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SOUTH KOREA

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UNITED KINGDOM

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Right at the belly of the beast, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

 

Filipinos overseas all set for global protest led by Migrante International and other broad groups

Days before President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), overseas-based Filipino organizations under Migrante International, Malaya Movement, BAYAN (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan) and the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) are all set for the UNITED PEOPLE’S SONA 2019: Global Protest Against Duterte’s Dictatorship

With the theme “Tama na! Sobra na! People Power na!”, preparations are already in full swing and progressive Filipino communities abroad will be assembling the largest and broadest alliance ever formed not only for  the United People’s SONA 2019 but for future actions related to countering “Duterte’s Fascist tyrannical reign.” 

 

Malaya mov

On their website, the Malaya movement stated, “The Filipino people have suffered long enough under Duterte’s anti-people agenda, with the majority of the country and even overseas Filipinos being greatly affected by the TRAIN law of increased taxes and prices on basic commodities. The issue of human rights has caused international alarm at the number of extrajudicial killings in the drug war alone reaching to 30,000.” All actions in the US were organized by the Malaya Movement. 

 

kopya

Meanwhile, Migrante International will be leading most of the protest actions in key cities in Europe, Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East and North America with the theme “Pilipino Ako! Makabayan Ako! Ayoko sa traydor, bentador at diktador!” This weekend and on monday, Migrante members in New Zealand, Hongkong, South Korea, Japan and Australia will be conducting protest actions before their respective Philippine Embassies and consulates. Protest assemblies will also be convened in the UK (London), Italy and Austria.   

Joanna Concepcion, Chairperson of Migrante International said, “Duterte’s subservience to China and the US is outright treachery. Our sovereignty is being sold out by the regime so that through foreign imperialist backing, Duterte can keep himself in power at the cost of thousands of innocent lives. We are fed up with this massive plunder and bloodshed. Enough is enough!” 

Along with hundreds of other groups coming from various sectors like workers, farmers, academics, students, urban poor and the religious sector, Migrante International is set to join the main mobilization along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City for the United People’s SONA. 

The main broad action will be preceded by a separate BAYAN program at the Commission of Human Rights (CHR) compound at 11 am in the morning. Marching towards the stage in front of St. Peter’s Parish, they will be joined by other groups and alliances under the broad umbrella movement of the United People’s Action which is expected to raise Duterte’s violations in compelling issues related to human rights and national sovereignty. 

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