MANILA, Philippines – Imprisoned Filipina Mary Jane Veloso’s birthday celebration will be lonelier this year as her family was unable to visit her in Indonesia.
Mary Jane, a trafficking victim who was charged for carrying drugs in her suitcase, is still on death row after the 11th-hour reprieve granted by the Indonesian government.
“Nalulungkot ako sa nabalitaan namin na ayaw kaming payagan na dumalaw sa kanya. Kaya nalulungkot po ako bakit ganun ang government natin bakit ayaw kaming payagang dalawin?” Cesar told reporters during a forum hosted by rights group Migrante on Wednesday, January 10.
(I am sad with the news that we were not permitted to visit her. I am sad because why weren’t we allowed to see her?)
January 10 marks Mary Jane’s 33rd birthday – the 8th time she is spending it behind bars.
The couple, together with Mary Jane’s sons Mark Daniel and Mark Darren and supporters, just had to make do with blowing her a birthday cake with the message “Free Mary Jane”.
Darren, her youngest, was shy to face the media for an interview but still took the chance to deliver a message to his mother.
“Happy birthday, Mama. Miss na kita. Sana po makauwi ka na (I miss you. I hope you can come home already),” said the boy in a hushed voice.
Veloso’s family and supporters sing her a happy birthday. pic.twitter.com/4TqUqT6TiQ — Patty Pasion (@pattypasion) January 10, 2018
Celia could not help but express how much she misses her daughter. But in her message, she told her to stay strong and remain hopeful that they will see each other soon.
“Sana maging matatag pa rin siya tulad ng dati kung gaano siya katatag. Talagang malakas ang loob niya. Higitan pa niya, basta magkikita-kita pa rin kami,” said Celia.
(My message for Mary Jane is for her to remain strong, even stronger than she was before. I know we will still see each other.)
Meanwhile, Mary Jane's father called on President Rodrigo Duterte to help free her daughter who has been in prison since 2010.
“Ang hiling ko lang po sana itong taon na po na ito, magsama-sama na po kami. Tulungan kami ni pangulong Duterte na tulungan ang aking anak na makalaya… Gusto ko nang makauwi ang aking anak dahil ito po marami akong nararamdaman hindi ko alam ang buhay ko kung kailan,” he said.
(My only wish is that this could be the year when we can finally together. I wish President Duterte can help release my daughter. I want her to come home because I don’t know when I’ll be able to live.)
Cesar and Celia said they were enduring some signs of sickness. Celia was diagnosed to be suffering from diabetes. Her fragile health makes her worry over who would look after Mary Jane’s sons.
In a message recorded through a phone call, Veloso sought for Duterte’s intervention in pushing the court in the Philippines to accept her written testimony for the case she filed against her traffickers.
Cases were filed against her traffickers Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao at the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Nueva Ecija in April 2015.
Since Veloso will not be able to testify, her lawyers filed a motion to take her written testimony answering the court’s pre-drafted set of questions to serve as her interrogation.