Family prepares for Mary Jane Veloso’s final day

Jet Damazo-Santos

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Family prepares for Mary Jane Veloso’s final day
Mary Jane Veloso's requests for the day include a copy of the Jubilee song and some durian

CILACAP, Indonesia – It’s early Tuesday morning, April 28, and Maritess Veloso-Laurente is doing things she hoped she never would.

She’s making preparations for the wake of her sister, Mary Jane Veloso, who is due to be executed anytime after 5 pm. 

“I want a smiling picture of her from Kartini Day for the wake, but can we change the background? Put clouds? So she looks like she’s in heaven,” she said, showing me a photo of Mary Jane on her phone, taken the day she participated in women’s day celebrations.

Up until late Monday night, the Veloso family was clinging on to hope – that there’s a chance Mary Jane can be spared from execution. But with her second case review request rejected by the court and Indonesian President Joko Widodo giving no indication he would order a stay of execution or clemency, they are coming to terms with the horrible reality.

“Can we print a copy of the Jubilee song?” Maritess later asked, saying it was one of her sister’s requests for the day. With no access to a printer, they decide to write down the lyrics by hand.

Moments later, Jamie Rivera’s voice was heard singing, playing from Maritess’ phone. “No more walls, no more chains, no more selfishness and closed doors,” the song went.

“It’s a beautiful song. Now I know why she wants us to sing it together later,” Maritess said. 

Marites' phone has the latest image of Mary Jane as the wallpaper, given to her by Rappler. Marites is hoping they would be able to take pictures with her in prison, but that looks unlikely. Photo by Jet Damazo-Santos/Rappler

Outside the dining area of the small inn where the entire family is lodged in, Mary Jane’s parents, Cesar and Celia, stand side by side, smoking cigarettes. 

“I don’t know how to be strong for her today; to not cry. She said she wants today to be happy, but I don’t know,” Celia said, before taking another puff from her cigarette in a futile attempt to stop herself from crying again. 

Last requests

A few minutes later, Darling Veloso – the last sibling from the Philippines – arrived. For days, she refused to go to Indonesia, insisting she would continue fighting for her sister back home.

“But when I heard that she really wanted to see me, to talk to me on Skype, I knew I just had to go,” Darling said.

Her arrival would help fulfill another one of Mary Jane’s last requests – to see her entire family. Only one member wasn’t able to make it, a sister in Bahrain.

She had other simple requests, like having her favorite fruit – durian – today. But others proved difficult to meet, like having her family stay overnight on the island or be on the island itself when the execution takes place, or extend visiting hours on the last day from 2 pm to 4 pm. 

‘They’re ready’

Cesar was also apparently insisting that he personally bring his daughter to the execution spot, but that is also unlikely. That led to heated discussions among the family, most of whom were up until 3 am. 

“We helped them process it all last night. They’re now ready,” Migrante International chairperson Connie Bragas-Regalado said.

“They’re still hoping for a miracle, but they’re ready.”

The lawyers, both the Indonesian and Filipino ones who worked up to the last minute to try to save Mary Jane, also apologized to the family last night.  

“Time was really against us,” Atty. Edre Olalia, from the National Union of People’s Lawyers, said. 

Father Bernard Kieser, Mary Jane’s spiritual adviser, will be the only one with Mary Jane up to the final moments, in an area identified as Zone 1. 

One of the Indonesian lawyers and a Philippine embassy representative will be farther on Zone 2 on the island, while the family will be on Zone 3, on the port. No official time has been announced, but it is believed the executions will begin right after midnight. –  

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