“Notably, none of the elements of the alleged importation of drugs into Indonesia took place in the Philippines. In fact, the Philippines as the sending country is where Veloso was illegally recruited in order to be trafficked or exploited in two other receiving states. Veloso is, thus, a victim, not a criminal who must be punished.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Mary Jane Veloso deserves justice, not punishment.
This is the reaction of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) on Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s recent statement asking for clemency or pardon for human trafficking victim Mary Jane Veloso.
Marcos Jr. is in Indonesia to attend the 42nd ASEAN Summit. According to news reports, Marcos Jr. said that they continue to ask for pardon or commutation. However, he also said that since Veloso was convicted under Indonesian law, they will find a way to bring her home, even if it means continuing her punishment in the Philippines.
In a statement, Josalee Deinla, NUPL secretary general, said that it is only appropriate for the executive department to pursue efforts and look for ways to secure the release and repatriation of Veloso, even as the Philippine government has hit an apparent “impasse.” “However, it is profoundly bizarre and wrong for the President to say, ‘Kami na magpaparusa sa kanya’ (We will be the one to punish her),” Deinla said.
The NUPL serves as private prosecutors for Veloso.
Deinla said that the Philippine government has no bases to punish Veloso. Citing the 2000 Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Protocol), Deinla said, “a trafficked person is exempted from criminal liability and the consent of the victim is irrelevant in the commission of trafficking.”
The Philippines and Indonesia are both signatories to the Palermo Protocol.
Deinla added that the Law of the Republic of Indonesia Number 21, the Eradication of the Criminal Act of Trafficking in Persons, defines trafficking in persons as, “among others, the recruitment, transportation and sending of a person through deception and other means for the purpose of exploiting the person within the territory of Indonesia.”
Meanwhile, Republic Act 9208 or the Philippine Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2008, as amended, provides that trafficked persons shall be recognized as victims of trafficking and as such, “shall not be penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of, or as an incident or in relation to, being trafficked.”
“Notably, none of the elements of the alleged importation of drugs into Indonesia took place in the Philippines. In fact, the Philippines as the sending country is where Veloso was illegally recruited in order to be trafficked or exploited in two other receiving states. Veloso is, thus, a victim, not a criminal who must be punished,” Deinla said.
“If there is something that Veloso deserves, it is justice, which has been denied and has long eluded her and her family. Asking for ‘grace’ to permit her safe return to the Philippines should not be conditioned on any commitment to punish her in her home country,” she added.
Veloso has been in jail since 2010. She unwittingly brought illegal drugs to Indonesia through her illegal recruiters. In 2020, the Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Court found Ma. Kristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao guilty of violating Republic Act 8042, or the Migrant Workers Act of 1995, as amended by Sec. 5 of Republic Act 10022.
The Supreme Court has also allowed Veloso to testify against her recruiters.
Read: Court finds Mary Jane Veloso’s recruiters guilty of illegal recruitment
Read: With finality, SC allows Filipina on death row to testify vs illegal recruiters
Meanwhile, progressive group Migrante International continues to call for clemency for Veloso. Last April, Migrante, along with 186 other international organizations, submitted an open letter to Indonesia’s Minister of Women Empowerment and Child Protection, Gusti Ayu Bintang Darmawati, asking for help to secure the freedom of Veloso.
Veloso’s mother, Celia, also wrote a letter to the Minister. “It is difficult to accept that one of my children has not been by my side for almost 13 years. My daughter has suffered for a wrong she has not committed,” the letter read.
Other signatories to the open letter include the Good Shepherd Sisters and Institute for Interfaith Dialogue in Indonesia, the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, the German NGO Network Against Trafficking in Human Beings, the Carmelite NGO-United States, and the International Migrants Alliance.
In a statement, Joanna Concepcion, Migrante International chairperson, has appealed to the Indonesian Women’s Minister to give attention to the pleas from the global community calling for clemency and Mary Jane’s immediate freedom. (RTS, RVO)