On the recently-held solidarity visit to Mary Jane Veloso in Indonesia

(A report prepared by Migrante International)

During the prison visit to Mary Jane on September 14, 2018, the Veloso family was joined by representatives from Migrante International, National Union of People’s Lawyers and the delegates of the Interfaith Mission for Solidarity and Service with Migrants, Refugees and Uprooted People. Coming from various faith-based, migrant-servicing and migrants’ organizations from Malaysia, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Hongkong, the delegation paid a visit to Mary Jane inside the Wirogunan Penitentiary in Yogyakarta, Indonesia to express their support and solidarity with Mary Jane’s struggle. The visit was an urgent resolution undertaken by the interfaith event. Since Mary Jane’s incarceration in 2010, it was the biggest international group of prison visitors.

In arranging the visit, representatives from the Philippine embassy and the prosecutor’s office of Indonesia accompanied the team. Mary Jane’s lawyers from the Rudyantho & Partners Law Firm were also present.  They were later joined by Catholic locals who have been regularly ministering to Mary Jane.

At around 9:00 a.m., 12 members of the team entered the penitentiary compound and was welcomed by Mary Jane herself in the visitation area.  Tears of joy flowed from Mary Jane’s eyes the moment she saw Tatay Cesar and her two children. Mary Jane immediately embraced them. Mark Darren and Mark Danielle were showered with hugs and kisses. They were all beaming with smiles.  Mary Jane sat down and tried to carry and kiss Darren like a baby. Mary Jane was frequently heard saying “miss na miss ko kayong mga anak ko.” Seeing her eldest son Mark Danielle who had grown tall, she exclaimed: “Ang laki-laki mo na, Mac-mac! Hindi ka ganiyan kalaki noong huli tayong nagkita! Binata ka na!”  It can be seen from Tatay Cesar’s eyes that he was very happy that his daughter and grand children were together again after almost two years.

The group members introduced themselves to Mary Jane, one after the other.  Everybody was ecstatic. Afterwards, the prison officers guided them to sit on the carpeted floor of the building.   The group formed a circle and Mary Jane sat beside her children. She thanked everyone who visited her that day and expressed appreciation to all who made her family’s visit possible.  She then related her situation inside the prison. Although lonely and longing for her return to the Philippines, she told everyone not to worry so much about her because she has many friends inside the prison and everyone there is kind to her.  She said “Kapag mabait ka sa mga tao sa paligid mo, magiging mabait din sila sa iyo. Walang-wala ako dito, ang tangi ko lang nabibigay sa kanila ay ang pagiging mabuti ko. Tumutulong ako sa kanila sa abot ng makakaya ko, kaya siguro ganoon na lang din ang tulong na nakukuha ko sa kanila.”  She then showed two plastic bags containing pairs of slippers, shirts, foods and other stuff which she received from jail officers and fellow inmates. She said that those who heard about her family’s visit gave those items for her family, especially for her children. Darren was given a yellow watch that transforms into a robot.  Mary Jane put it on his wrist and asked him if he already knows how to read the time. Darren answered “opo..nine hundred twenty-nine,” referring to the time which was already 9:29 a.m.

The visitors, even Mary Jane’s lawyers from the Philippines and Indonesia were not allowed to discuss with her the details about the case or any activity or information related to it.   A representative from the Philippine embassy and Prosecutor Anggraeni, the prosecutor who handles the case of Mary Jane, forewarned the delegation that only the governments of Indonesia and the Philippines could give Mary Jane updates about her case through their “G-to-G” (government to government) coordination.

Imposed with this limitation, the delegation gave Mary Jane some words of encouragement. Mary Jane was elated to find out that many people from around the world are working very hard to fight for her freedom and are waiting for the day when she will finally be released.  The group then sang the Christian hymn “Pananagutan.” Mary Jane then recited a poem for the delegation. The poem, written in Bahasa Indonesia was entitled Sepucuk Harapan (A Spark of Hope).

Everyone listened intently as Mary Jane recited the poem.  Many were unable to hold back their tears. She explained that the poem purely came out from the depths of her feelings. In creating the poem, she related that she was moved by her faith in God and by her confidence that all her supporters, both inside and outside the prison will never forsake her.

The meeting culminated with an ecumenical prayer led by Bishop Joel Tendero of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.  The offered prayer asked for Mary Jane’s strength with the hope that she will be reunited with her family in the Philippines someday.

The delegation was only given an hour during the visit while Mary Jane’s loved ones were allowed to stay until 12:00 p.m.

Reverend Joram Calimotan from the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants said, “It was heartwarming to witness Mary Jane Veloso’s face light up upon seeing and being reunited with her sons Mark Danielle and Mark Darren as well as her father Cesar. The three were part of the 12-people delegation from the interfaith mission who went to visit Mary Jane in the Yogyakarta prison on September 14. Mary Jane herself was radiant and full of hope, especially when she read a poem she wrote in Bahasa Indonesia. Her poem spoke of a will to go on, of not losing hope. Albeit brief, our conversations with Mary Jane provided us with not only inspiration but a stronger determination to pursue justice for her. We will continue until she is finally free and reunited with her family here in the Philippines.”

On the second and last visit to Mary Jane the following day, the Veloso family had a more private and intimate time with her. She was also provided with updates on the development of the international campaign.

After bidding farewell to her daughter, Tatay Cesar addressed the group and said, “Nagpapasalamat ang aking anak sa lahat-lahat ng sumusuporta na, (quoting Mary Jane) ‘sana Tatay ay huwag po ninyong lubayan ang paghingi ng tulong sa mga tumutulong sa akin. Sana ay gawin nila lahat para makauwi na ako.’ Ang sabi ko naman, anak kahit madalang kaming bumisita sa iyo, maraming sumusuporta sa iyo kaya huwag kang mag-alala at maraming tumutulong at gumagabay sa inyo.”

Migrante International spokesperson Arman Hernando gave his insight on the prison visit, he said. “We visited Mary Jane because we wanted her to feel, that despite all of the adversities, the outpour of support on her struggle for freedom never ceases. But after talking to her, it seems that we are the ones who got inspired by her undying courage and hopefulness.”

“Terima Kasih Mary Jane! I will forever treasure this day! We pledge that we are going to see this through! We will win your freedom,” Hernando concluded.