What keeps Mary Jane Veloso busy while on death row?

Patty Pasion
What keeps Mary Jane Veloso busy while on death row?
While in prison, the Filipina on death row learns new skills and hobbies.

MANILA, Philippines – Former domestic worker Mary Jane Veloso, who is on death row for alleged drug trafficking in Indonesia, still tries to support her family even if she is behind bars.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said that Veloso earns a living by washing the clothes of other inmates and selling her batik and crochet creations, which she tries to harness.

Batik is Indonesia’s traditional fabric that is decorated using dye and wax.

“[She and her prison mates] spend time midday and afternoon to learn batik-making. She sometimes gives her batik products as gifts to her visitors,” said Assistant Secretary Aleli Bawagan who visited her in Indonesia on November 11. (READ: FAST FACTS: The case of Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso

Aside from mastering the craft, Veloso also immerses herself in Indonesian culture by learning to speak and read Bahasa. Her favorite is a poem entitled “Tunggu”, which means “wait” in English. The poem is about the poet’s conversation with God about waiting.

Her house mother Ibu Corniase said that the frequently smiling Veloso is also a charm to her inmates. She serves as an inspiration as she is always perceived to be optimistic

Some inmates who have been released even want to visit her but since she is on death row, only official visitors can be allowed to visit.

PRODUCTS. Mary Jane Veloso shows off some of her creations. Photos from DSWD

Going home

Despite being held captive for 7 years, Veloso remain optimistic she will attain justice and finally see her family.  

“She said that the last time she talked with her family was on October 25, the birthday of her youngest child who turned 7. He was just a baby when she left for Malaysia,” Bawagan said.

Veloso, a single mother of two from the Philippines, has been sentenced to death in Indonesia for allegedly smuggling 2.6 kilograms of heroin into the country. She has maintained her innocence, insisting she was an unknowing drug mule. 

Veloso was given a last-minute reprieve on April 29, 2015. Her execution was postponed at the last minute, following a plea from former President Benigno Aquino III and the surrender of her supposed recruiter Maria Cristina Sergio. (READ: Mary Jane speaks up one year since she escaped execution

But in a recent conversation with Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, President Rodrigo Duterte, who is waging a massive anti-drug campaign in the Philippines, told Jokowi he would not meddle if Indonesia were to decide to implement the death penalty.

Prosecutor Ibu Sri Aggraeni said they are waiting for the results of the illegal recruitment cases against Sergio and fellow recruiter Julius Lacanilao in the Philippines before making a decision, although Veloso remains on death row.

“They are also waiting for the deposition of Mary Jane to be done here in Indonesia. She knows that this has been ordered by the Philippine court although they do not know when this will be held. This will be a good opportunity for Mary Jane to testify in front of the court,” said Bawagan. – Rappler.com

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.