11 January 2024
We in Migrante-International, together with the Filipino migrants and people, are deeply disappointed with the recently-concluded meeting of Philippine president Bongbong Marcos Jr with Indonesian president Joko Widodo.
The meeting generated the popular expectation that some good news about Indonesian-Philippine relations would be announced. But what was on the front burner were confined to matters of energy, security and defense. For us, the best news would have been clemency and freedom for Mary Jane Veloso, a victim of illegal recruitment and human trafficking who has been imprisoned and remains on death row in Indonesia since 2010.
But there was no good news from President Marcos Jr.’s meeting with outgoing Indonesian President Widodo on this transcendental issue that has been outstanding for the past three Manila governments. It was simply ignoring a huge elephant thumping in the room.
The official announcement from the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs—that the legal interrogatories have been sent to Indonesia for Mary Jane to answer, as part of the prosecution of her illegal recruiters — is nothing new and even belated and overdue.
At the same time, the Philippine authorities should now demonstrate a more decisive political will to lock in with their Indonesian counterparts on the specific parameters of taking her deposition as soon as possible.
Marcos Jr expressed his hope that this legal process will hasten the granting of clemency to Mary Jane. The truth is that the judicial process and the executive clemency process are two distinct though parallel tracks. One should not be a quid pro quo of the other.
It is disheartening for the Marcos Jr. administration to still rely solely on a lengthy and laborious process that has been obstructed by legal maneuvers over time when it can already do something politically and seek immediate solution through the independent track of clemency.
The Marcos Jr. administrations’ rather passive and meek stance on her case is an injustice to Mary Jane, her family and friends, and ultimately all Filipino migrants and people. This is a missed opportunity for Marcos Jr to seize this singular chance to make a strong diplomatic push to set Mary Jane free. Regrettably, he did not go far enough in pushing for her freedom and merely settled for a long-drawn out legal process.
We call on the Filipino migrants and people: let us continue pushing for Mary Jane’s immediate freedom. We continue to call on President Widodo to grant Mary Jane clemency on humanitarian grounds and allow her to reunite with her family soon. On top of her continued imprisonment and difficult circumstance, her parents are getting older and need their daughter, her children are also getting older and need their mother, and all of them need another breadwinner. ###