“The very reason that drove Mary Jane Veloso away was economic difficulties, the dream of a better life. All the more there is a need to resume the peace talks so that both panels can proceed with the discussion on socio-economic reforms.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Cesar Veloso broke into tears when he was called to share the plight of his daughter, Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina currently on Indonesia’s death row for a drug case.
Before Cesar was given the floor, UCAN’s video “The Passion of the Filipino Family” was shown in the forum organized by the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) April 8. Not a few were teary-eyed after watching the short documentary.
Garry Martinez, chairman of Migrante International, thanked the church people for their support and appealed for a more intense campaign to save Veloso from death row. He lamented that 20 years after Flor Contemplacion was executed in Singapore, another Filipina is facing the same predicament.
For peace advocates, Veloso’s case underscores the need for the resumption of formal talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
Fr. Rex Reyes Jr., general secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), said, “The very reason that drove Veloso away was economic difficulties, the dream of a better life. All the more there is a need to resume the peace talks so that both panels can proceed with the discussion on socio-economic reforms.”
Formal talks between the GPH and the NDFP have reached an impasse since February 2011. Informal talks were held since but to no avail.
According to The Hague Joint Declaration, the next substantive agenda for GPH-NDFP peace talks would be socio-economic reforms. The Hague Joint Declaration, the framework agreement for the peace talks between the GPH an the NDFP, sets five substantive agenda which are human rights and international humanitarian law, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, end of hostilities and disposition of forces. The Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law was signed by both parties in 1998.
Speaking at the forum, Luis Jalandoni, chairman of the NDFP peace panel, said,
“The NDFP has been critical of the government’s labor export policy and the state neglect of overseas Filipino workers.”
Veloso’s mother Celia told the audience that the Philippine government has done nothing about the case. “We had lost hope. We thought nobody else would help us until Migrante came,” Celia said.
Jalandoni said the suffering of the Veloso family is a problem of the Filipino people.
Seven OFWs have been executed under the Aquino administration, the highest since the labor export policy began in the 1970s, according to Migrante International.
In 2013, at least 3,732 Filipinos are detained in 53 countries, based on the Status of OFWs Report submitted by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to the Senate in June of the same year. Of this number, 108 are on death row in six countries.
Data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) revealed that from 2008 to 2012 alone, a total of 7.2 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were deployed in several countries. In 2013, the number of OFWS hired abroad reached more than 1.8 million.
From 2010 to 2014, the average OFW remittances per year amount to $22 billion. In the same period, however, the average annual combined budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Labor and Employment for the protection of OFWs is only $202 million. The annual budget allotted for the protection of OFWs is not even one percent of the total remittances they send each year.
Jalandoni said the NDFP has concrete proposals to address the problems on migration, cited in its draft on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (Caser).
Connie Ledesma, a member of the NDFP peace panel, said, “That’s why the NDFP is pushing for land reform and national industrialization: to create jobs so that our OFWs [overseas Filipino workers] can go home.”
Jalandoni said the NDFP is prepared any time to talk with the GPH. “Both panels will have to sit down and respond to the demands of the Filipino people,” he said.