MANILA, Philippines – Save the life of Mary Jane Veloso! End human trafficking!
This was demanded in an online petition posted on Change.org, a global petition platform reaching over 70 million users.
Veloso, a 30-year-old single mother, is on Indonesia’s death row for attempting to smuggle drugs. (FAST FACTS: The case of Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso)
“We believe that Mary Jane Veloso is a victim of human trafficking, who is innocent of knowingly carrying drugs,” the petition read.
Veloso first left her family in Nueva Ecija to work as domestic helper in Dubai; however, she soon returned home after almost getting raped.
In 2010, a friend offered Veloso a job as a domestic worker in Malaysia. But upon arriving, the friend, identified as Maria Kristina Sergio, instructed Veloso to go to Indonesia instead. According to Veloso’s lawyer, it was also Sergio who gave Veloso the suitcase which was later on discovered to contain 2.6 kilograms of heroin. (READ: Story of Mary Jane, in her own words)
Don’t punish the trafficked, punish the traffickers, advocates said.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime defines human trafficking as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons” by means of threat or deception, for the purpose of exploitation.
Trafficking victims may also be used to transport illegal drugs without their knowing.
According to the 2012 data of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, over a thousand Filipinos have been trafficked. The number of victims, however, do not match the number of convictions.
Although the country’s human trafficking convictions have been rising over the years, its progress has been “small and gradual,” data from the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) reveal:
|Year||Number of convictions|
(as of Mar27)
From 2005 to 2015, the total number of human trafficking convictions remains low at 182.
The Change.org petition was posted by a certain user called “Church Response” on April 23, with a goal of reaching 5,000 online signatures. (READ: The race to #SaveMaryJane)
It has already garnered 3,327 supporters two days since then, with pledges coming from different parts of the world.
“Mary Jane’s situation merits special attention,” the petition stressed. “As a single mother of two, young sons, Mary Jane was desperate for employment which made her vulnerable to the human traffickers.”
“Not fluent in English and limited in formal education, Mary Jane was swept up in a flood of circumstances that resulted to her conviction,” it added.
“She had no legal counsel for most of the process, she did not understand most of the proceedings, and her family received death threats by the drug syndicate, warning them not to go to the media or seek help.”
The petition seeks clemency and pardon for Veloso, while also pushing for the prosecution of those who “recruited and manipulated” many other poor and vulnerable Filipinos.
You can sign the petition here. You can also reach out to Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, or Amnesty International.
On Saturday, April 25, Veloso was finally allowed to see her family. During the prison visit, lasting for only two hours, Veloso told her lawyer to thank everyone who continue to believe in her. – Rappler.com
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