Photo courtesy of Eman Villanueva/UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK
Photo courtesy of Eman Villanueva/UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK

BY UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK

Dear President Aquino,

Do you know Mary Jane Veloso? You should for she is the Flor Contemplacion of your time.For her two children, Mark Darren and Mark Daniel, she is the mother who is doing her best to provide for their everyday needs and their education. For her parents and four other siblings, she is the youngest in the family who bravely faced the challenges of working overseas in order to help them survive poverty and hardships.For us, fellow overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), Mary Jane epitomizes the vulnerability of Filipino workers abroad to forces that capitalize on our desperation due to the lack of decent livelihood, opportunities and hope in our home country.Mary Jane Veloso first went overseas to work as a domestic worker in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2009 but soon left her job after her former employer attempted to rape her.While back in the Philippines, she was approached by a certain Ma. Cristina Serio who promised her a job in Malaysia. However, no job was waiting when they got there. A few days later, Serio told her that a job was available for her in Indonesia, then gave her a suitcase, packed her bag and gave her some money.On April 26, upon arrival in Jakarta, airport authorities discovered 2.6 kilos of heroin in the inner compartment of the bag Serio gave her.

Clearly, Mary Jane was a victim of illegal recruitment and was duped into becoming a drug mule.

Now, Mary Jane Veloso faces the gruesome sentence of death by firing squad.

Why should Mary Jane Veloso die for merely wanting to have an honest work that could support her family? Why is she the one who will be made to suffer while those who orchestrated the trafficking and fooled her into unknowingly transporting the illegal drugs are still out there continuing their criminal activities?

President Aquino, you should be aware that your government failed Mary Jane for the past five years that she has been in jail. Upon her arrest, Mary Jane was not given a proper and professional translator when she was questioned in Bahasa Indonesia. During her trial, she was only given a student translator who interpreted the proceedings in English, which Mary Jane is not proficient with. She was also not provided a dedicated lawyer and had to rely on a public defender provided by the police.

From the accounts of Mary Jane’s family, their repeated appeal for help from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) were only met with indifference and inaction. Only in the past few months did the Philippine government hired a lawyer to appeal her case – almost five years since her imprisonment and trial started.

President Aquino, you should know Mary Jane Veloso for her condition is the condition of your people overseas. Services to Filipino migrants with problems are just so minimal and protection is very much absent. Unfortunately, your five years in office have not seen any significant improvement in the state of the Philippine government’s response to problems of OFWs.

Moreso, your past five years in Malacañang have not resulted to the mitigation of the forced migration of your people. It is actually frustrating for us that what your government is proud of is the increase in Filipinos who go abroad and get exposed to a vulnerable living and working condition that cost many of us their lives.

Much like what Mary Jane Veloso is facing right now.

Mr. President, you should do your utmost – exhaust legal means, pursue diplomatic appeals on humanitarian grounds, extend all kinds of support – to save the life of Mary Jane. You should also ensure that her family’s needs are met while they await for a positive end to their problem.

Now, Mr. President, you know who Mary Jane Veloso is. You should know us too.

You should know that we are the Mary Jane Velosos in other countries – the OFWs – who will continue to push you and your government to get Mary Jane Veloso out of her predicament, and concretely improve on the services and support for all Filipinos wherever we are present.

We will not let Mary Jane Veloso be another Flor Contempacion. This we vow to do.

Signed:

United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK)
BAYAN – HK and Macau
Gabriela Hong Kong
Filipino Migrant Worker’s Union
Abra Tingguian Ilocano Society
Cordillera Alliance
United Pangasinan in Hong Kong
Association of Concerned Filipinos
Filipino Migrants Association
Filipino Women Migrants Association
Pinatud a Saleng ti Umili
LIKHA Filipino Migrants Cultural Organization
Friends of Bethune House
Filipino Friends
Capiznon Hong Kong
Malibcong Migrants Association
MIGRANTE Macau
Balaoan Migrant Workers Society
Luzon Alliance International
FMWU Chater Garden
MIGRANTE Naguilian
Pangasinan Organization for Welfare, Empowerment and Rights
United San Manuel Isabel Association
Women of Philippine Independent Church
Association of Luzonian Overseas Workers
Diwa’t Kabayan Benlife Society Club
D’Dreamers Association Hong Kong
Annak ti Segundo Distrito ti Ilocos Sur
Consolidated Filipino Community Brigade
Elen’s Dancers
Alcalenean’s Hong Kong Chapter
SIKAP Association
MIGRANTE Luzviminda
Helpers of Islam Group
GABRIELA HK Bank
Philippine Folk Dance Society and Performing Arts (Leaders Group)
Occidental Mindoro Association – Hong Kong
Filguys Association Hong Kong
Binalonan Pangasinan Workers Association in Hongkong
Balungao Overseas Workers Association
MIGRANTE Nueva Vizcaya
Filipino Image Society (FIS)group
Annak ti Segundo Distrito ti Ilocos Sur
Mega Ballroom Dance Association
United Migrante Enterpreneur Liveilihood Association – Hong Kong
Filipino Christian Community-Methodist International Church (FCC-MIC)
Suyo Ilocos Sur Association (SISA)
Agoo Migrant Workers Association – Hong Kong
The Society Of Genuine Friendship
Golden Arnis’ Shotokan Martial Arts (GASMAA)
Philippine Alliance Hong Kong
Mindanao HK Migrants Alliance

On April 8, 2015,  OFWs in Hong Kong trooped to the Philippine Consulate General and held a protest rally to condemn the Philippine government in its criminal neglect of the cases of OFWs in death row including that of Mary Jane Veloso. The protesters led by UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK and BAYAN Hong Kong & Macau also called on the Philippine President to personally intervene and to appeal to Indonesian President Joko Widodo to spare the life of Mary Jane and allow her to return to the Philippines to be with her family and children. Some local and Indonesian supporters also joined to express solidarity and support for the call to save the life of Mary Jane who is in Indonesia waiting for her execution by firing squad.