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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Mary Jane: Her Story is Not Yet Done

It has been 14 years since Filipino domestic worker Mary Jane Veloso was arrested in April 2010 by Indonesian authorities for alleged drug trafficking and was sentenced to death by firing squad.

It has been nine years since Mary Jane was spared from her execution in April 2015. She was the only prisoner that day who was given a last-minute reprieve from death by firing squad. The other eight prisoners on death row faced the 126-man firing squad without blindfolds, singing Amazing Grace.

Photo credit: Indonesian activists hold candles during a a vigil supporting Filipino maid Mary Jane who is facing execution outside the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, 27 April 2015. EPA/MAST IRHAM

Although Mary Jane was spared from the firing squad that day, both Indonesian Attorney-General HM Prasetyo and President Joko Widodo have both said her sentence is “postponed, not cancelled.”

It was a reprieve that was welcomed. But it was neither clemency nor release from prison. It was not good enough for the many international, regional and national women, migrant, and human rights organisations who have campaigned long and hard and demanded both the Indonesian and Philippine governments to act swiftly with justice and mercy. More than 200,000 signatures from 127 countries were on a petition that helped spare the life of Mary Jane from execution on April 29. The global appeal now holds the record for being the fastest growing petition.

Mary Jane remains on death row. And so the campaign to free Mary Jane continues.

Mary Jane is the face of human and labour trafficking. She is  the victim of traffickers Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao who preyed on her vulnerability, desperation, and  ill-placed trust on her recruiters because of a false promise of a job abroad. Sergio and Lacanilao then used her as a “mule” to carry  a suitcase with illegal drugs hidden in it.

Ten years later, in 2020, recruiters and traffickers Sergio and Lacanilao were  arrested, found guilty, and sentenced to life imprisonment in the Philippines. Edre Olalia of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers and private counsel of Mary Jane declared at the conviction of Sergio and Lacanilao, “…  we believe that the conviction of Mary Jane’s traffickers stand as a testament to Mary Jane’s story – that she was not a drug courier but an unwitting victim of the same illegal recruiters.”

In 2022, the Philippine Supreme Court made its final ruling and directed the Philippine government to make arrangements with the Indonesian government to facilitate Mary Jane’s deposition. This means that subject to mutual agreement by both governments, Mary Jane can now tell her full story, make her deposition, and put an end to her unjust imprisonment. But Mary Jane has yet to begin the process of providing her testimony that will prove she is a victim of human trafficking, due to delays in the Philippine legal court.

Mary Jane is the face of human and labour trafficking.  As a victim of exploitation, tricked into carrying luggage with drugs to Indonesia, she also faced unfair trial in Indonesia, and was sentenced to death. A violation of international law, according to the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, in that death sentences are only reserved for the most serious crimes – not drug crimes.

The Indonesian National Commission on Violence Against Women also certified that Veloso is a victim of human trafficking, to help the campaign for Mary Jane’s release and/or clemency.

As a victim of human and labour trafficking, why is she sentenced to die, more so when her traffickers have been convicted for those crimes in the Philippines?

Would it not make sense to protect Mary Jane as the  victim of trafficking rather than line her up against the wall and shot?

And so the campaign to free Mary Jane Veloso, to bring Mary Jane Veloso home continues. The campaign needs your support. Mary Jane needs to be reunited with her two children who have grown up without their mother and her parents who in their old age, have relentlessly demanded for their daughter’s safe release home.

Will you support the Migrante Canada’s campaign to free Mary Jane? Please sign the petition using this link: https://forms.gle/7iXJ4Fgu5vvHbWqx6 or scan the QR code below.

-Migrante Canada

Free Mary Jane Veloso Campaign



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