Veloso family on Mary Jane’s birthday: We want her home

Mara Cepeda
A day after her birthday, Mary Jane Veloso's family is flying to Indonesia to visit the Filipina on death row

SET TO FLY. Mary Jane Veloso's parents Cesar and Celia and sons Mark Daniel (13) and Mark Darren (7) in the NAIA Terminal 2 on January 11. Rappler photo

MANILA, Philippines – When her family visited Filipina Mary Jane Veloso in Indonesia on April 2015, they thought it would be the last time.

Mary Jane then was set to be executed by firing squad for allegedly smuggling 2.6 kilograms of heroin into the predominantly Muslim country.

She was granted an 11th hour reprieve by the Indonesian government after a last minute plea by President Benigno Aquino III as well as the surrender of her alleged recruiter, Maria Cristina Sergio. (READ: Saving Mary Jane, the face of OFWs)

More than 8 months later, Mary Jane’s parents Celia and Cesar, and her children Mark Daniel and Mark Darren, will see her again, this time to celebrate her 31st birthday with her. 

Masayang-masaya kami kasi makikita namin ang anak namin na naman. Talagang masayang-masaya lalo na’t birthday niya kahapon. Binabati ko ang aking anak ng happy birthday, anak. Papunta na kami sa’yo,” said Cesar before entering the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Monday, January 11. 

(We are very happy because we will see our daughter again, especially because it was her birthday yesterday. Happy birthday, Mary Jane. We’re on the way there.)

ALL SMILES. Cesar Veloso smiling as he tells the media on January 11 about his excitement to meet his daughter Mary Jane after months of separation. Rappler photo

On Sunday, several civil society groups and supporters led by the Save Mary Jane Alliance, the Migrante Party-list, the Church Task Force to Save Mary Jane, and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers  (NUPL) celebrated Mary Jane’s birthday with the Velosos with a Mass, a symbolic picket action, and a simple salu-salo in Nueva Ecija, Mary Jane’s hometown.

Her eldest son Mark Daniel wishes one thing for his mother.

Sana makauwi na siya (I hope she can come home),” said the 13-year-old, who was timid in front of the cameras but who smiled and nodded his head in agreement when asked if he misses his mother.

Mark Daniel’s grandmother Celia said they are looking forward to see Mary Jane this week. (IN PHOTOS: Smiling, laid-back Mary Jane Veloso watches art show)

Ang wish ko po sa birthday ng aking anak ngayon, sana po ay makauwi na siya at makapiling na namin at makapiling na niya ‘yung mga anak niya (My wish on my daughter’s birthday is for her to come home and to finally be with her family and children),” Celia said.

The Velosos will be accompanied by Mary Jane’s lawyer Edre Olalia and a representative from Migrante from January 11 until January 16 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, where Mary Jane is currently imprisoned.

NUPL secretary-general Olalia said that while the Department of Foreign Affairs will shoulder the cost of the family’s trip, the NUPL decided to come along on its own.

Minabuti na rin namin sa NUPL na sumabay kasi ito ‘yung unang pagkakataon na masinsin at personal naming mabibrief ‘yung si Mary Jane kung ano na ‘yung nangyari doon sa mga kaso dito, lalo na sa illegal recruiters [niya]. [Masasabi naman kung] ano ‘yung prospects, ano ‘yung maaasahan, ‘yung sari-saring puwedeng itanong nang personal na hindi magagawa kasi sa long distance,” said Olalia.

(The NUPL decided to go because this is an opportunity for me to personally brief Mary Jane on what is happening with the cases here in the Philippines, especially those concerning her illegal recruiters. We would be able to explain well what are her prospects and we can answer questions that are difficult to ask in long distance conversations.)

The Court of Appeals recently gave the go signal for the cases of trafficking, estafa, and illegal recruitment filed against Mary Jane’s alleged recruiter Sergio and her live-in-partner, Julius Lacanilao, to proceed. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.