Mary Jane Veloso’s mother appeals to Indonesian gov’t anew to act on case

Michelle Abad

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Mary Jane Veloso’s mother appeals to Indonesian gov’t anew to act on case
'Napakahirap tanggapin na nawalay siya sa tabi ko nang halos 13 taon... sana po ay mabigyan ninyo ng pansin ang kaso ng anak ko,' writes Celia Veloso

MANILA, Philippines – The mother of long-detained overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Mary Jane Veloso appealed anew to the Indonesian government to act on her daughter’s case.

An appeal for clemency was made in Celia Veloso’s open letter addressed to Indonesian Minister of Women Empowerment and Child Protection, Gusti Ayu Bintang Darmawati, ahead of Indonesia’s Women’s Emancipation Day, also known as Kartini Day, on Friday, April 21.

Nearly 200 organizations and migrant rights groups from various countries endorsed a separate open letter that accompanied Celia’s. They requested for Darmawati’s support in the fight for clemency for Mary Jane.

Celia asked Darmawati to give attention to Mary Jane’s case, more than a decade since her detention in Indonesia over drug trafficking charges.

Bilang isang ina, napakasakit po para sa akin na makitang nakakulong ang aking anak nang walang kasalanan. Napakahirap tanggapin na nawalay siya sa tabi ko nang halos labing tatlong taon,” wrote Celia.

(As a mother, it is very painful for me to see my daughter in jail when she did nothing wrong. It is difficult for me to accept that one of my children has not been by my side for almost 13 years.)

Celia’s letter was translated into English and Bahasa.

‘Stalled’ case

In September 2022, Mary Jane’s parents appealed to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to negotiate with Indonesian President Joko Widodo to grant clemency to their daughter ahead of his state visit there.

During the visit on September 4, Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo asked his Indonesian counterpart that Mary Jane be pardoned.

Mabait, matulungin, at mapagmahal na anak, kapatid, at ina si Mary Jane Veloso. Wala siyang ibang hinangad kundi ang maiahon sa hirap ang kanyang pamilya sa mabuting paraan… Kaya ako [kasama] ng aking pamilya ay nagmamakaawa at nakikiusap po sa inyo na sana po ay mabigyan ninyo ng pansin ang kaso ng anak ko,” Celia wrote.

(Mary Jane Veloso is a kind, helpful, and loving child, sibling, and mother. She wanted nothing more than to uplift her family out of poverty in an honorable way… That’s why I, along with my family, am appealing to you to give attention to my daughter’s case.)

Noong naligtas po siya sa bingit ng kamatayan ay nabuhayan po kami, nagkaroon ng maliit na pag-asa, pero muli na namang natigil ang pagdinig sa kaso niya,” she added.

(When she was spared from execution, we had a little bit of hope, but once again the hearing of her case has stalled.)

Even Darmawati reading Celia’s letter would give their family hope, she said.

MOTHER’S APPEAL. Celia Veloso, Mary Jane Veloso’s mother, writes a handwritten letter to Indonesian women empowerment minister Gusti Ayu Bintang Darmawati appealing for attention to be given to her daughter’s case. Courtesy of Migrante International
Support from groups

At least 186 groups from the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Bangladesh, United States, Qatar, and France, among others, endorsed an accompanying letter penned by OFW rights group Migrante International.

“We are one with the people of Indonesia in commemorating Kartini Day and we join you in honoring the millions of inspiring Indonesian women and girls in the past and present who have contributed greatly to improve the lives of their families, the state of their communities and the future of their country,” they wrote.

“As migrants and women’s rights groups and advocates from around the world, we invite you to listen to the story and voice of Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipino victim of human trafficking who has remained in death row in Indonesia for thirteen years and is appealing for clemency from the Indonesian government. Like many women victims of human trafficking, Mary Jane was deceived with a false promise of employment as a domestic helper in Malaysia,” they added.

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Migrante mentioned the September 2022 clemency appeal from the Philippine government, and expressed hope that it would be granted “at the soonest time.”

“Mary Jane’s elderly parents, who have developed ailments and health problems over the years, are constantly fearful of not living long enough to see their daughter’s freedom. Mary Jane’s children, who have already grown into teenagers – fine young men – still long for their mother’s love, guidance, and nurturing. With Mary Jane’s strong faith, her family’s determination and overwhelming support from the global community, Mary Jane and her family remain hopeful,” they said.

The groups expressed their “resounding and urgent appeal for mercy and clemency for Mary Jane,” and asked for Darmawati’s support.

They also thanked the Indonesian government for granting Mary Jane a temporary reprieve.

As Mary Jane neared the day of her supposed execution in April 2015, the Philippine government, then led by the late former president Benigno Aquino III, held last-minute talks to stop Veloso’s execution by firing squad.

Aquino’s effort to speak to the foreign minister of Indonesia was seen as a breach of protocol as he requested Indonesia to turn Veloso into a state witness. –

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers the rights of women and children, migrant Filipinos, and labor.