There is a keen sense of collective outrage among migrants worldwide over the plight of Mary Jane Veloso, a 30-year old Filipina domestic worker who was trafficked and duped into transporting drugs to Indonesia. After becoming victimized by traffickers, she is now about to be executed in a foreign country after being neglected by the Philippine government in a flawed and one-sided trial.
Like other peasant women who are forced by economic circumstances to work abroad, Veloso’s desperation became the condition for ruthless traffickers to exploit and profit from. Her godsister who was also an alleged member of a drug syndicate promised her a job in Malaysia in 2010, only to tell her it had been taken and that she can try applying for another one in Yogjakarta, Indonesia. She was given some money and an empty suitcase that was rather heavy, and her nightmare started soon afterwards.
When 2.6 kilograms of heroin were discovered stashed away in the suitcase’s lining, Veloso was immediately put on trial for drug trafficking. She was seen by Indonesian authorities as the main culprit, notwithstanding her previous employment as a migrant domestic worker (FDW) in Dubai and the circumstances surrounding her entry into the country. Her drug test was also negative and she maintains she did not know the suitcase contained drugs. Being deprived of essential legal assistance by the Philippine government at the time of her trial, she was made to accept a public defender and an unaccredited translator who simply rendered the Bahasa court proceedings into English, a language that Veloso is not fluent in.
The Philippine government intervened only more than a year after Veloso had already been sentenced to death in April 2010, through a request for clemency with then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhyono. This was later rejected by new President Joko Widodo, as well as a petition for judicial review which was trashed by the Indonesian courts last March 25. Veloso is now up for execution with the next batch of foreigners in death row, which could be anytime this month.
As a grassroots-based global coalition for migrant workers’ rights, the International Migrants’ Alliance (IMA) is shocked at the criminal negligence of the Aquino government in handling Veloso’s case. The death sentence could have been avoided if a more competent lawyer and translator were provided by the Philippine Embassy, while political intervention could have come right after the sentencing. As it is, the Philippine government is now playing catch-up with the Indonesian government in trying to stave off Veloso’s impending execution, and another Flor Contemplacion is in the making.
We are also alarmed that 7 Filipino migrant workers have already lost their lives abroad through the death penalty under the Aquino government, and that more will likely follow as it stubbornly treads the path of “migration for development” laid down by the World Bank, OECD and the UN. The resulting labor-export program under this economic approach aggravates the lack of genuine development in the country, and subjects overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) like Veloso to modern-day slavery, commodification, trafficking and death in foreign prisons.
In behalf of its member-organizations worldwide, the IMA is calling on the Philippines’s Aquino government to to do its utmost to save the life of Mary Jane Veloso, and to hold appropriate officials accountable for gross dereliction of duty in attending to her trial. It should also review the country’s labor export program and slavish adherence to the neoliberal framework of “migration for development”. For the Widodo government in Indonesia, we appeal to their sense of human compassion and social justice to ask that Veloso be released on humanitarian grounds, or at least have her sentence commuted to life imprisonment.
IMA fully supports the Migrante International (MI) campaign to save Veloso’s life, and will strive hard with other migrant organizations in the Asia Pacific to save the life of other migrant workers in death row around the globe. We will steadfastly work towards the day when poor sections of the population are no longer compelled by the need to find gainful employment abroad, but are actively transforming their own societies along the path of people-centered and just sustainable development. #
Save the Life of Mary Jane Veloso!
No to Another Flor Contemplacion!
No to Labor-Export Policy and Trafficking!