Interfaith group: Mary Jane a victim of human trafficking

Paterno Esmaquel II
Interfaith group: Mary Jane a victim of human trafficking
'Her pain is our pain. Her family's pain is our pain,' a group of Christian churches says in appealing for a Filipina on Indonesia's death row

MANILA, Philippines – A group of Christian churches joined the clamor for Indonesia to stop the execution of Mary Jane Veloso, a 30-year-old Filipina whom the interfaith group described as a victim of human trafficking. 

“Her pain is our pain. Her family’s pain is our pain,” the Philippine Interfaith Movement Against Human Trafficking (PIMAHT) said Wednesday, April 15.

PIMAHT is led by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC), and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP). 

The group said Veloso “was duped into transporting drugs” to Indonesia.

“Coming from a poor peasant family, Mary Jane was desperate to provide a better life for her two sons and her parents. Thus, she became prey to the promise of employment as domestic worker in Malaysia in 2010 by a certain Maria Kristina P Sergio whom Mary Jane considered a friend being the partner of her godfather’s son,” PIMAHT said in a statement.

“Once in  Malaysia, she was told by Sergio that the job was already taken but a job was available in Indonesia, instead. Desperate for a job, she threw away all her hesitation and went to Indonesia. There, she found out that she was tricked into  carrying a sizable amount of heroin in the luggage that Sergio bought for her,” the group added. 

Under Philippine laws, human trafficking involves, among other things, recruiting persons through deception “for the purpose of exploitation.”

Human trafficking ‘a scourge’

The Philippine government should arrest Veloso’s alleged recruiter and trafficker, migrant workers’ group Migrante International said. (READ: Mary Jane’s sister to President Jokowi: Blood will be on your hands)

“Human trafficking is a scourge that thrives on the vulnerability of our poor sisters and brothers who have no recourse but to grab the proverbial knife (kapit sa patalim) in order to survive,” PIMAHT said. (READ: Mary Jane Veloso a drug smuggler? Look at our home, parents say)

The group then said the Philippine government should exert all efforts to save Veloso. It said the Indonesian government, for its part, should “heed the growing  voices in the country and within the international community to grant her clemency.”

“As a faith-based movement against human trafficking in all its forms, our call for clemency is motivated by Jesus Christ’s promise of abundant life for all. In the fulfillment of that promise, we denounce any acts that deny the same. We consider such acts as things that encourage robbery, that kill, and that seek to destroy,” PIMAHT said.

Like PIMAHT, other religious groups have joined calls to save Veloso. (READ: Jakarta Archbishop: ‘Death penalty is a failure of humanity’)

On Tuesday, April 14, CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas wrote his Indonesian counterpart, Jakarta Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, to help stop Veloso’s execution.

The CBCP earlier said, “We storm heavens with prayers that she be saved from this tragic fate.”

These statements came as the the Indonesian Supreme Court rejected Veloso’s request for the court to review her case. Her lawyers said they will seek a second case review once they get a copy of the Indonesian Supreme Court’s decision. –

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at