By BENJIE OLIVEROS
The family, relatives and friends of Mary Jane Veloso, with the help of Migrante International and other progressive groups, the Catholic Church, and concerned citizens are trying to move heaven and earth to save her life and spare her from the death sentence.
Mary Jane Veloso has been sentenced to death by an Indonesian court after 2.6 kilos of heroin was found stitched inside the lining of the luggage that she was told to use by her neighbor who recruited her to work as a domestic helper abroad. Mary Jane’s plight is typical: of poor, desperate Filipinos lured into leaving their homes with the promise of gainful employment abroad only to be used and abused.
If an overseas Filipino gets in trouble abroad, they are left on their own with, at most, an interpreter, supplied by the Philippine embassy. Citing budget considerations, lawyers are provided by the Philippine government only after the OFW has been sentenced. If the distressed Filipino is sentenced to death, the Philippine government will act with urgency only when the execution is about to be promulgated.
Mary Jane Veloso was arrested in April 2010 and the Philippine government has been acting with a sense of urgency only now, five years later. Her plight has been made known to the public only after Mary Jane Veloso’s family sought the help of Migrante International.
Worse, the family was left in the dark as to the status of the case while the Philippine government did nothing. They were even instructed not to approach Migrante International and the media.
This same pattern has been going on and on. No matter how many denials the Philippine government issues, the fact that this happens again and again shows that this pattern is true.
But Mary Jane Veloso’s case does not only represent the typical plight of overseas Filipino workers. Her situation is typical of millions of unemployed and underemployed Filipinos who are willing to go to unknown or even known risky and dangerous places just to find work so that their respective families would survive their worsening lives here in the country. No amount of stories of abuse, difficulties, and even war could stop Filipinos from going abroad to work.
This is a testament to the economic and social crisis enveloping the country. This desperate situation of majority of Filipinos could not be masked by rosy economic figures of supposed growth and promises by the government that the Philippines would soon be raised from backwardness and poverty. How could that be when around 5,000 Filipinos leave to work abroad every day? Mary Jane’s sister Maritess Veloso Laurente risked working abroad as a domestic worker even after Mary Jane was arrested.
Mary Jane’s plight is not only typical of the daily struggles of the working masses. Mary Jane’s parents were seasonal sugar farm workers or sacadas of Hacienda Luisita, which is owned by President Benigno Aquino III and his family, up to the 1980s when the current president’s mother Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino was the president and the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law was enacted. Her family’s plight is a testament to the failure of the government’s land reform program, which has been extended several times already but has not been able to give the millions of peasants their right to the land that they have been tilling for decades.
The campaign to save Mary Jane Veloso’s life has become more urgent now, as the Indonesian government has not yet commuted her death sentence. It only granted a stay in the execution. Thus, there is an urgent need to intensify the campaign even more.
At the same time, Mary Jane Veloso’s case highlights the need for the Filipino people, especially the poor majority to intensify the struggle to put an end to the system and to government policies that worsen the economic, social, and political crisis and result in ever worsening poverty and backwardness. For starters, the Filipino people should pursue the fight for a genuine agrarian reform program to uplift the millions of peasants from poverty and landlessness.