Manila, April 27 – As I write this piece, the vigils are being held in various places, white ribbons are being worn, prayers are being said, candles are being lit as communities of migrant advocates, overseas Filipinos, people’s sectoral organizations, friends and supporters, in the Philippines, Indonesia and other parts of the globe intensify the pressure on the Indonesian President Widodo to stop the execution of Mary Jane Veloso and grant her clemency.
Radios in jeepneys and taxis are turned on to the news. I have heard no one say, “Let her die, she’s guilty.” What I have heard and seen when I go around are people believing, saying, and taking action to support a halt in her execution because she is innocent.
I believe that Mary Jane is innocent, a victim of no decent jobs at home, where illegal recruiters operate with impunity because no mother wants to have her children go hungry.
Even Manny Pacquiao, ang pambansang kamao, has, on public media, personally appealed to Indonesian President Widodo to save the life of Mary Jane and has asked the Filipinos to pray for Mary Jane. Even United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has asked for a moratorium on all executions, including that of Mary Jane’s.
It has been five years since Mary Jane, Filipina migrant worker, was arrested in Indonesia for alleged drug trafficking. It has been five years since she was convicted after a very brief trial and sentenced to die by a firing squad. Mary Jane is the only female in the group of ten prisoners who are at imminent risk of execution in Indonesia.
Yesterday, news that the Frenchman Serge Atlaoui, one of those to be executed, got a reprieve from the Indonesian President after the French president reportedly spoke out about the executions and its impact on the relations between Indonesia and France and Europe. It would seem that even President Widodo knows when to take political calculations and decisions and the reprieve of the Frenchman was proof that international pressure can and does work when strongly and loudly delivered.
President BS Aquino can surely do this — speak up loudly and publicly to protest the imminent execution of Mary Jane, an innocent victim of human trafficking. The ASEAN Summit (April 26-28) in Kuala Lumpur is an opportunity for him to do this. The Filipino people need to hear him speak out on Mary Jane’s behalf. We need to hear it.
If Aquino thinks a stronger message is needed, he can even recall the Philippine ambassador in Jakarta back to the Philippines. Indonesian investments in the Philippines could be at risk.
Even as we hope and pray that a stay of execution is handed down, Migrante International believes that is also imperative that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) publicly release all of the names of the Filipinos in jails and on death row abroad and the names of their embassy-appointed lawyers. According to the DFA, there are 41 other Mary Janes on death row abroad, according to the DFA – one Filipino in Saudi Arabia, 18 in Malaysia, 19 in China and two in Vietnam.
The public should also be made aware that the policy of the DFA is to provide legal assistance only to OFWs who are on death row. My question: Why wait? This is far too late! More than this, the DFA policy contravenes the Magna Carta for Migrant Workers that mandates providing proper and sufficient legal assistant upon arrest and detention of OFWs in distress. In this context, the Philippine government becomes responsible for the imprisonment and execution of OFWs.
Today, I light my candle for Mary Jane.