Mary Jane Veloso’s execution a cruel form of ‘justice’

The Philippines' Commission on Human Rights calls for clemency after local and international human rights advocates intensify their appeal to save Mary Jane Veloso from Indonesia's death row

HELP. Human rights groups call for people to continue pleading for the life of Mary Jane Veloso. File photo by Bimo Satrio/EPA MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine’s Commission on Human Rights (CHR) joined the growing clamor to spare the life of Mary Jane Veloso, who is set to be executed by firing squad in Indonesia on Tuesday, April 28.

The national human rights office decried the impending execution, calling it a “punitive form of ‘justice.'”

“The death penalty in any form, in any case, is a direct violation of a human’s right to life,” CHR chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales said in a statement on Tuesday.

The CHR said the death penalty makes Indonesia responsible for the loss of a human life, suggesting that Veloso was not given a fair trial guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It cited the following:

  • The death sentence was handed down by the judges overseeing the trial against the sentence of imprisonment recommended by the prosecutors
  • Veloso’s trial can hardly be considered as constituting the fair hearing given that for most of the proceedings, she was not provided with a competent translator
  • The proceedings were translated into English instead of Mary Jane’s primary language, defeating the purpose of requiring a translator
  • The National Narcotics Agency of Indonesia also determined that Mary Jane was never a drug courier

“While the Indonesian government’s desire to crack down on its country’s drug problem is understandable, executing Mary Jane only sends the message that drug syndicates will continue to escape accountability so long as they continue to exploit the desperate victims of structural inequalities,” Rosales said. (WATCH: The fate of Mary Jane Veloso)

VIGIL. Filipinos hold a candle-lighting vigil in front of the Indonesian Embassy in Makati in support of Mary Jane Veloso. Photo by Alexa Villano/Rappler

Call for clemency

The CHR’s statement, which called for clemency, came after local and international human rights advocates intensified their appeal to save Veloso from Indonesian death row.

Karapatan and Tanggol Bayi, in a letter sent to Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, wrote that the whole world is asking for justice and for him to stop the execution.

“We, human rights advocates, women human rights defenders, and concerned people of different nations, add our voices to the urgent appeal of the Filipino people and the rest of the world calling on Indonesian President Jokowi Widodo to stop the execution of Mary Jane Veloso,” the letter read.

Different international officials, personalities, and ordinary citizens joined the group in fighting for the life of the 30-year-old former overseas Filipino worker sentenced to death. (READ: Asian netizens call on Jokowi to #SaveMaryJane)

“We stand with the Filipino people and the rest of the world as one voice to save Mary Jane Veloso from death row,” the appeal stated. “She was betrayed, neglected by the Philippine government and from then on, suffered grave injustice and violations to her rights.”

The human rights group also said that they’ve received a copy of an appeal signed by more than 11,000 individuals from different countries.

Thes countries include the United States, Austria, Singapore, Sweden, Canada, Denmark, United Kingdom, Australia, Malaysia, Netherlands, Mexico, Switzerland, India, Slovenia, Kazakhstan, Italy, Puerto Rico, Poland, Macedonia, Ireland, France, Belgium, Romania, New Zealand, Germany, Spain, Croatia, Lithuania, Honduras, Costa Rica, Argentina, French Polynesia, Hungary, Latvia, Ukraine, Japan, Luxembourg, Finland, Oman, Belarus, South Africa, Malta, Bulgaria, Portugal, Turkey, Israel, Dominican Republic, Serbia, Estonia, Jamaica, Ecuador, Norway, Colombia, Chile, Lebanon, Cayman Islands, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Another appeal to save Mary Jane has garnered more than 152,000 signatures from 127 countries as of Tuesday afternoon. The appeal now holds the record for being the fastest growing petition on Change.org Philippines, according to Christine Roque, the country’s senior campaigner with the global petition platform. (READ: #SaveMaryJane among most signed Change.org petitions)

However, the Indonesian government remained firm on its stand to proceed with the executions despite condemnation from the international community, including the United Nations led by Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. (READ: World condemns looming Indonesia executions and Asian netizens call on Jokowi to #SaveMaryJane)

Meanwhile, President Benigno Aquino III’s talks with Widodo turned out futile as the Indonesian President has maintained the supremacy of the law. Aquino, however, has made a last-ditch effort to save Mary Jane, proposing to Indonesian officials on Tuesday that she be turned into a “witness” against the drug syndicate that victimized her. 

Aquino made the effort on the same day that the alleged recruiter of Mary Jane surrendered to police. 

Activist group Karapatan remained optimistic, encouraging everyone to continue to defend the life of Mary Jane – a victim of poverty in the country, the group said. 

“We call on fellow women, human rights advocates, and defenders of life, human dignity and justice, to hear the plea of Mary Jane and the Filipino people,” the group said.

It added, “We echo her plea as to hear the plight of Filipino migrant workers who are forced to work outside the country because of poverty and social injustices that continue to this day in Philippine society.” 

Veloso was arrested in 2010 with 2.6 kilograms of heroin sewn into the lining of her suitcase, but claims she was duped into carrying drugs by an international drug syndicate. – Rappler.com