Mary Jane Veloso: How a 30-year-old Filipina ended up on death row in Indonesia

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Mary Jane Veloso, 30, was caught trafficking drugs when her flight from Malaysia landed in Jogjakarta in April 2010. She unknowingly brought with her 2.6 kilograms of heroin with a street value of US$500,000. Reports imply that she was not aware of the drugs hidden inside her luggage.

She was sentenced to death in October 2010 and the Philippine government has vowed to exhaust all means to save her. Her initial appeal for judicial review — she says she did not have a capable interpreter during her trial — was rejected last week and on Friday we reported that Indonesia is preparing to move her for execution. A second petition will be filed by the Philippine government.

Veloso’s plight comes on the heels of another high-profile drug-trafficking case in Indonesia involving Bali Nine — nine Australians who were attempting to smuggle drugs out of Bali. The alleged masterminds, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, are set to be executed by gunfire despite top-level intercessions from the Australian government and human rights advocates.

These are what you need to know to better understand the case of Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipina on death row:

1. Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso is from the village of Caudillo near Cabanatuan City, where she grew up impoverished, with her parents and siblings. She is a single mother of two.

2. Among the siblings, it was only Mary Jane who was able to go to high school — but she only attended first year.

3. Instead, she sought employment abroad as a domestic helper, lasting only 10 months in the United Arab Emirates because she fled when her employer tried to rape her.

4. At 25, she was going to try her luck again, this time as a domestic helper, a job she heard about from her kinakapatid Cristina. When she landed in Kuala Lumpur, however, Cristina told her the job was already filled but there was another vacancy in Jogjakarta in the island of Java if she was still interested?

5. Before the flight to Jogjakarta, Cristina took Veloso on a shopping spree where she bought her new clothes and luggage. They took the same flight but Cristina disappeared when Veloso’s suitcase set off the security alarm while she was clearing customs.

6. Hidden inside Veloso’s luggage was 2.6 grams of heroin wrapped in aluminum foil, with an estimated street value of US$500,000. She had been set up as a drug mule and was arrested by the police in April 2010. In October 2010, she was convicted as a drug trafficker and sentenced to death. There was no word on her execution during the term of president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. But Joko Widowo, Indonesia’s new president since October 2014, has been taking a hardliner stance on drugs and has denied presidential clemency for drug offenders. Jokowi said in December 2014 that capital punishment is important “shock therapy” for drug traffickers who have “destroyed the future of the nation,” suggesting that he will not be merciful to those on death row for drug cases, explains Coconuts Bali.

7. Veloso’s execution was deferred by the Indonesian government in February 2015 following a formal appeal from our Department of Foreign Affairs. Veloso claims she did not have a capable interpreter during her trial. Last month, the Indonesian government allowed her family — her mother, sister and two children — to see her in prison.

8. On Mar 26, Indonesia’s supreme court rejected Veloso’s appeal for a judicial review, with no explanation. According to a Reuters report the next day, the Indonesian government was preparing to move Mary Jane from Yogyakarta to the prison island of Nusakambangan Island in Central Java.

9. The date of her execution has yet to be announced.

10. Veloso’s plight comes on the heels of another high-profile drug-trafficking case in Indonesia involving a group dubbed Bali Nine. They were attempting to smuggle 8.3 kilograms of heroin out of Bali in 2005. Despite pressure from international media and appeals from the Australian government on behalf of the two Australian ringleaders in the group, their execution by gunfire has not been overturned.

Photo: AFP
Reference: | UCAN News

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