#SaveMaryJaneVeloso More death row cases brought to govt’s attention; Veloso family troops to DFA with other disgruntled OFWs, kin

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. Photo courtesy of the Veloso family.

The Veloso family today trooped to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) this time to bring to the agency’s attention other possible death row cases and neglected cases of other OFWs in jail.

Accompanying Mary Jane’s mother, Celia, was the mother of OFW Rose Policarpio Dacanay who is a candidate for death row in Saudi Arabia.

Rose was implicated in the murder of her employer in June 2013. She claims she fled the scene of the crime because the perpetrators attempted to rape her. According to her mother, Editha, her daughter went to the police to report the incident but was arrested and jailed instead. On February 2015, Rose disclosed that during the time of the investigation, a Jerome Frias of the Philippine Embassy forced her to admit to the crime in front of the Saudi police. She had been in Malaz jail for 21 months and awaiting sentence.

Also with them were the mothers and relatives of other OFWs in jail who have sought the help and legal assistance of the DFA but have been found wanting. (Please see attached matrix)

Yesterday, all of the families had a “solidarity lunch” with Russell Contemplacion, daughter of Flor, who expressed support for Mary Jane and the other OFWs and called on the government to give attention to their cases. “We hope that this would be given due attention. Twenty years ago, my mother Flor was executed. We were told that she would be the last. But she was not,” Russel said.

Like Mary Jane, all of them did not receive proper and sufficient legal assistance and legal aid from the Philippine government.

Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez slammed the DFA’s “policy” that legal assistance is only given to OFWs who are already on death row. “This policy should be investigated and corrected immediately. It is a direct violation of the Magna Carta for Migrant Workers which clearly mandates that all OFWs in distress be given proper and sufficient legal assistance upon arrest and detention. Hindi iyong hinihintay pa nilang humantong sa death row bago sila pumasok sa eksena. Ang patakarang ito ng DFA ang nakamamatay sa ating mga OFW.”

For her part, Nanay Editha said, “Nandito kami para suportahan si Mary Jane. Kasama namin ang kanyang pamilya hanggang dulo. Ilalaban namin ito dahil ang laban para kay Mary Jane ay laban din para sa karapatan ng aming mga anak at kapamilya.”

Aquino veto on LAF in 2015 budget questioned

Martinez also probed Pres. Aquino’s veto of the Legal Assistance Fund (LAF) for the 2015 budget. In his Veto Message last December 2014, Aquino included the LAF in items in the General Appropriations Act 2015 placed under “conditional implementation” and subject to the approval of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

The president’s veto also called for a creation of a so-called “special fund” for the LAF, suggesting that funds for the LAF will be sourced elsewhere other than what is stated in the law.

Republic Act 8042, amended by RA 10022, or the Magna Carta for Migrant Workers requires a P100-million LAF in the national budget sourced from the following: P50 million from the Presidential Social Fund, P30 million from the Contingency Fund of the President and P20-million from OWWA. He said that only an average of P30-million has been allocated for the LAF since Aquino became president in 2010.

He also demanded an explanation from the government on why funds for the LAF has been slashed since 2010, while there have been reports that at least P52 million in legal funds for OFWs were unused since 2011. “Kailangang magpaliwanag ni Aquino. Ibig bang sabihin nito pati ang LAF na-DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) na?” Martinez said.

Supporters of the #SaveMaryJaneVeloso campaign will hold a rally at the Indonesian embassy on April 24, the deadline for the temporary reprieve on executions announced by the Indonesian government. ###

Matrix of possible death row and jailed cases

Most number of OFWs on death row executed under Aquino – Migrante

photo from remate.ph

photo from remate.ph

Global alliance for overseas Filipinos Migrante International expressed deepest sadness and sympathy for the family of Carlito Lana, an overseas Filipino worker who was beheaded for murder by the Saudi government.

“This is a dark day for migrant Filipinos, especially for those on death row abroad. We call for an investigation on why there have been the most number of executions that pushed through under Pres. Benigno Aquino III’s term,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.

Lana was the sixth OFW on death row executed within Aquino’s four years in office, the most number of executions under one regime since the Philippine labor export policy was implemented in the 1970s.

Martinez said that Lana’s family sought their help when he was arrested and that they have been monitoring the status of case since. Lana admitted to killing his employer out of self-defense.

“He was suffering abuses in the hands of his employer. When the crime happened, he even rushed his employer to the hospital but they met a vehicular accident on their way. That was when the Saudi police arrested him. From the start, we have questioned the Philippine government if he was given legal assistance given the nature of his case,” Martinez said.

He said, “We are deeply concerned over the fate of other OFWs on death row and those in detention. There are 123 more OFWs on death row, and at the rate the Aquino government is going, we can expect more executions in the next few years. The government has not shown transparency nor accountability for failing to save the lives of our OFWs on death row.”

Migrante also demanded an explanation from the government on why funds for legal assistance for OFWs in distress have been slashed since 2010, while there have been reports that P52 million in legal funds for OFWs were unused since 2011.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) attributed the unused funds to a clause in the Migrant Workers Act stipulating a “ceiling” to the amount of assistance that is allowed per OFW in distress. “We find this justification unacceptable and extremely irrational. On top of OFWs on death row, there are at least 7,000 OFWs in jails abroad, some awaiting death row sentences. The common occurrence is they get arrested and undergo investigation without any representation or legal counsel. Because of this, they are deprived of due process and go straight to jail without any legal assistance from the PH government,” Martinez said.

“In the case of Lana, we will not be surprised if, at all, it will be discovered that legal assistance was offered only at the last minute. The same happened to the first five who were executed.”

Lana’s execution came a mere five days before December 18, International Migrants’ Day.

The plight of OFWs on death row will be one of the major issues that Migrante International will bring forth on December 18. Members of Migrante International from all over the world will march to Mendiola to reiterate their call for Aquino to step down from office. “We do not want more OFWs to die of government failure and criminal neglect. We want Aquino out.” ###