“Attorney, please bring home my mother.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – On the eve of his departure to Indonesia, Cesar Veloso, father of Mary Jane Veloso, could not sleep. He checked and re-checked each pocket and even the linings of his newly-bought back pack.
“I am very nervous. I am going there to save my daughter. I cannot afford to land in the same situation,” Veloso told Bulatlat.com.
Mary Jane is a Filipina sentenced to die in Indonesia. Her luggage, lent to her by her recruiter, contained 2.6 kilograms of heroin stitched inside the linings.
Veloso will be flying to Indonesia with the family’s lawyer Edre Olalia and Minerva Lopez, both from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers. They are expected to arrive in Jakarta late in the evening today, April 21.
Her sister Maritess Veloso-Laurente, along with Migrante Sectoral Party chairperson Connie Bragas-Regalado, left for Indonesia last April 17. The two have been making the rounds of Philippine and Indonesian government offices in a bid to save Mary Jane from execution.
Laurente and Regalado helped forge a meeting between the Indonesian lawyers hired by the Philippine embassy in Jakarta and the Philippine private lawyers of the Veloso family on April 22 at 1 p.m.
On human trafficking
Olalia, head of the six-member legal team of the Veloso family, told Bulatlat.com that they will go to Indonesia partly blind on the real status of Mary Jane.
The legal team only had the chance to talk with the Indonesian lawyers on April 20, a few minutes before the press conference with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines began. In two separate letters dated April 10 and 14, the legal team has been asking, among other things, for the Department of Foreign Affairs to link them with the Indonesian lawyers.
So far, however, Olalia said, they have only received a three-page timeline of the efforts of the DFA to appeal for Veloso’s life.
“If the government has been consistent in updating the families and did not belittle the case, neglected and kept the family in the dark, then we would not be racing against time. We are all blind on what is the real status. And we were forced to go to Indonesia because we cannot find help here,” he said in an interview.
Olalia said that although the team has conducted extensive research on Indonesian laws, they will not pretend that they are experts on its laws.
Lawyers may file as many judicial reviews as possible as long as new evidences would be presented, said Olalia.
So far, the private lawyers of the Veloso family are looking into the possibility of establishing in the next judicial review that Mary Jane is a victim of human trafficking. Olalia said that international law dictates that more weight is given to the fact that the person is a victim of human trafficking than the supposed crime he or she committed.
As a result, he said, Mary Jane should have been protected and not penalized.
The private lawyers of the Veloso family will also seek metalegal measures, such as sending their appeals before various United Nations mechanisms, the Indonesian Commission on Human Rights, among others.
Olalia said they will also attempt to visit Mary Jane in jail, hoping to get her sworn statement. This time, he said, they will focus on her ordeal as a victim of human trafficking.
Respect to Indonesian Constitution
In a television interview, Indonesian president Joko Widodo said their constitution must be respected.
Olalia said the same Constitution also protects the rights of the accused. He added that there are several conventions and treaties, stipulating that the death penalty should only be meted to those behind the most heinous crime.
He added that laws could never outweigh moral and humanitarian grounds. If laws, he said, result to inflicting injustice, “then it is necessary to look back and rectify.”
“Can we ever sleep soundly knowing that a person innocent of a crime she is charged of will be executed by firing squad? Of the poor Filipinos who will fly out of the country tonight, how many of them might no longer return and end up like Mary Jane?” he said.
“To all who are helping us, please never give up. We need all the help,” said Veloso.
Just before entering the airport, Mark Darren, Mary Jane’s six-year-old son, tugged at Olalia who was conferring with members of Migrante International. He sheepishly told Olalia: “Attorney, please bring home my mother.”
Olalia was left speechless.
“How could I respond to that?” he told Bulatlat.com.
In an earlier interview with Olalia, he said they are not saviors but mere lawyers.