OFW Mary Jane Veloso jailed in Indonesia for 5 years without Philippine government assistance

Supporters of convicted drug smuggler Mary Jane Veloso heaved a sigh of relief after Indonesia suspended the execution of the Filipina in death row by firing squad on the 29th April 2015. The decision to postpone her execution came not necessarily after Philippine President Benigno Simeon (BS) Aquino spoke to Indonesian President Joko Widodo as some would say, but after Widodo met director of Migrant Care Indonesia Anis Hidayah hours before her scheduled execution.

According to an ABS-CBN News report, Hidayah pleaded with Widodo to try and understand that there are also Indonesian migrant workers in death row in other parts of the world who were convicted under similar circumstances to Filipina OFW Veloso.

Hidayah said she discussed the details of the case and appealed to the Indonesian president to spare the Filipina’s life.

“We are also talking about the issue of Mary Jane. We talked to him that actually Mary Jane is the victim of human trafficking that also happened with many Indonesia migrant workers abroad also facing death penalty,” she said.

Hidayah said they wanted to make sure Widodo was informed about the vulnerability of migrant workers, particularly from the Philippines and Indonesia, to drug smuggling rings.

Presidents BS Aquino and Joko Widodo at the ASEAN Summit
Presidents BS Aquino and Joko Widodo at the ASEAN Summit
The surrender of Veloso’s former friend and illegal recruiter Maria Kristina Sergio to Philippine authorities also helped persuade Widodo to grant a delay of Veloso’s execution. There are now talks that Veloso could serve as a witness against her recruiter and possibly help catch the real drug traffickers.

Widodo however emphasized that it is a postponement of the execution only and not an annulment. This means that Veloso’s execution could still push through if she gets implicated once again during the prosecution of her illegal recruiter Sergio. Veloso has always maintained that she had no knowledge of the presence of drugs in the suitcase given to her by a certain “Ike” – a Malaysian based African who served as Sergio and her partner’s contact from Malaysia.

It is therefore too early for Veloso and her supporters to start celebrating. It is also a bit silly for BS Aquino and his supporters to start taking the credit for Veloso’s temporary reprieve. If ever, we should give credit to the timing of the ASEAN summit prior to Veloso’s execution.

The gathering of ASEAN leaders gave BS Aquino an opportunity to speak face to face with President Widodo. Of course, the two leaders talking in person made a difference – it put a little pressure on Widodo. The outcome would not have been the same had BS Aquino communicated only via telephone or through representatives in the Department of Foreign Affairs. As they say, timing is everything.

It is doubtful that BS Aquino would have made a special trip to Indonesia just to speak to Widodo in person regarding Veloso had they not met at the ASEAN summit. However, some of the President’s supporters were quick to give the credit to BS Aquino. Presidential sister and actress Kris Aquino rushed to express her praise for her brother on social networking site Instagram:

I AM PROUD of my brother. I AM PROUD OF MY PRESIDENT.

Never mind that Veloso has been languishing in jail for five years without assistance from the Philippine government. During her trial, Veloso did not even have a lawyer to defend her. This was what pro-OFW group Migrante International had to say about Philippine government neglect:

“Like others before her, she was not provided proper legal assistance and counsel by the Philippine government until the last minute,” the group said in an open letter to Indonesian President Joko Widodo asking him to spare Veloso.

“The Philippine government has thus far failed to show transparency and accountability for failing to save the lives of Filipinos on death row,” it added.

Mary Jane Veloso could have been freed earlier after her 2010 arrest had she been given assistance by the Philippine government.
Mary Jane Veloso could have been freed earlier after her 2010 arrest had she been given assistance by the Philippine government.
The question remains: why did it take five years for the Philippine government to help Veloso? It seems BS Aquino only classified Veloso’s case as “urgent” when members of the public were already blaming him. Five years ago, the Department of Justice could have arrested and filed charges against Veloso’s illegal recruiter but didn’t. She languished in jail for years while BS Aquino remained oblivious of her legal woes until the last few days.

For BS Aquino to qualify for credit grabbing, he needs to ask himself: Would he accept the blame had Veloso’s execution gone ahead? It is doubtful considering he has never been known to take accountability for his own shortfalls. He would probably blame someone instead.

The real credit should go to Veloso’s supporters who worked tirelessly to ask the Philippine government for assistance. They should be proud of their work considering Veloso is the only convict who was spared from the mass execution scheduled on that day. The death threats received by illegal recruiter Sergio likewise compelled her to surrender to police.

It would be a real tragedy if it turns out that Veloso is actually innocent of her crimes. The postponement of her execution is not a guarantee she will be freed from jail. She could still serve a long sentence. If there is any truth to the stories about how appalling prison conditions are in countries like Indonesia, then remaining in jail is like a living hell.

The other tragedy in this situation is if the Filipino public who are currently in a state of emotional high, suddenly became gullible again to BS Aquino’s PR stunt. While the President’s move has certainly yielded positive results, he is only compelled to do something when there is already a public outcry – something that will not happen when the public is beholden to him. It’s sort of a Catch-22.

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40 Comments on “OFW Mary Jane Veloso jailed in Indonesia for 5 years without Philippine government assistance”

  1. This president has zero diplomacy and zero influence over anybody. They only delayed because they need a witness. This is typical Filipino hype which the automaton masses will eat up from the news junkies.

  2. Aquino is good to grab credit. His sister, the whore, Kris Aquino is also fast to give credit to her mentally retarded brother.

    This is what happen when you don’t use your common sense. Why take a luggage, from a person? You barely know that person.
    You don’t know what is in the luggage. It can be drugs, guns, bombs,etc…so next time think, a hundred times, before you accept any luggage, from someone…

    We, OFWs have to protect and fend for ourselves, in the foreign country we work , and earn our living.
    The Embassy of the Philippines, is only interested in your money remittances. If you get in trouble: “Bahala ka sa buhay mo!!!”

  3. Let us just say that the confluence of events saved Mary Jane. DFA’s Jose described it best: “It was a surprise — ….a pleasant surprise.” Now that it has turned out to be a lucky break, I think we knew subconsciously and anticipated that there was going to be a scramble for parties taking the credit for such a break, no matter how belated, or how ephemeral it may turn out to be. Of course, we knew. It was the result of the usual 11th hour drama. The necessary drama was an opportunity that any sort of crusading efforts could be noticed. We probably can’t deny that there was the necessity of the drama with such a case as this, but is there really a need for a scramble for credit grabbing thereafter? The funny thing is that even if we anticipated the mad scramble, the parties now appearing to take credit for the break make us vomit. Somehow they immediately and totally negate whatever efforts they contributed to the confluence of events. It was afterall not an effort on behalf of an OFW like Mary Jane. It was an effort to use a vehicle of high drama to simply advance themselves.

    Indeed, we find ourselves in a Catch-22. We don’t know if other countries would have just proceeded back to their normal day to day activities as if nothing happened if they had the lucky break as we had. If there was to be a drama, it was only because of a realization that there could be times when indeed time could run out despite duties and responsibilities being performed constantly and persistently. We have to ask because our society has always had this abnormal propensity to look for a hero, or heroes, especially those created by mainstream media and otherwise. Thus, we may have to wait for another 11th hour drama to save the other Mary Janes languishing in other death rows for that is the time when media could create another hero.

    It is good that we now see PNoy as a hero no more and wasted, but we have to recall that there are, and have been, many too who are pretending, and pretended, to be heroes. Indeed, we have been burnt so many times by our subconscious search for a personality to idolize. Personality cult could mean life and death as the case of Mary Jane once again demonstrates. It is a bet, a gamble, a risk, on a knight in shining armour that will and can never materialize if we continue to forget that true heroism is simply in doing our duties and responsibilities honestly and constantly with total quality without fanfare, or media. How sweet, romantic and more dramatic when one discovers a heroism that was never sincerely meant to be publiciized or advertised. And how so very, very rare these days too.

    1. Amen to that, Add.

      Life will never be boring for Filipinos because most of us love creating problems where there should be none. We also love procrastinating, hoping that the problem will just disappear. It doesn’t. It only becomes even more complicated. Had the DOJ provided assistance by investigating the recruiters of Veloso as soon as news of her arrest was known, they could have solved her dilemma years ago and not five years later.

      The society’s lack of foresight, lack of urgency and lack of focus for what is important is part of the reason why the Philippines cannot move forward.

      1. ..Yes, Ilda. Oh again, I forgot to credit you and Benign0 for your 5-star articles, as those on Mary Jane. But then, that is the point. You have consistently, and thus probably to some boringly, been 5-star, something that have come to be expected of GRP. Whether you are appreciated or not for the articles, credit or no credit for ’em, you just churn them out — for years now — even if sometimes it is like talking to a blank wall. Why can’t other Pinoys be the same, consistent and persistent? Precisely because there has been no attempt at any frantic credit grab, you’ve been look at often as somewhat counter-cultural. Harsh and negative have been the usual comments.

        But, what is cultural to Pinoy? It is about personality cult, about proscrastination, etc etc… and about a huge inferiority complex as rightly pointed out by @Hi Joe below, about making a big deal of having fulfilled what’s in a job description — is it because not doing one’s job has become the default? …Actually, it is about anything that does not result in a deluge of comments because it is not about a #DongYan wedding. So, I really don’t know if Pinoys really care. After the high drama, I would have expected more comments here if only to seek lessons learnt from it. Well, maybe nobody cares about unpacking, analyzing, synthesizing what is a Pinoy, for a good many really don’t care about the future, or whatever.

        Thus, from Mary Jane, we will proceed on Sat/Sun to another high drama, the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight. Leading the pack of credit grabbers, of course, would be Mommy D, as if somebody else could grab the credit for being the mother of Pacman. More likely, she would shove again another Hermis bag in our faces after the fight, which she would make sure we understand is worth millions of pesos even if it is just some damned bag. (Sonamagan, you can dress ’em up, but you can’t take them anywhere. Sorry.) Then, there would be the normal congratulatory note from the snake’s-pit known as Malacañang. So the scramble and the rumble. …What could have been good entertainment, …damaged by Poor Taste Galore…. again, sorry. ….I think I will be busy with my homework on Sun.

        1. @Add

          Thanks so much for your comment! Consistency is part of GRP’s success. It doesn’t matter to us if majority of our articles do not go “viral” the same way some articles do when the topic is about Dingdong & Marian or when it insults the so-called “Filipino pride”. We just keep doing what we do best – tell it like it is. 😉

          Some people think we are too harsh. I don’t think so. I think my articles simply reflect the urgency of the situation. Some issues in the Philippines should have been acted upon decades ago and I want Filipinos to realise that their neglect can result in irreversible damage to our society.

          My motivation to write comes from the hope that one day, Filipinos will stop being gullible to empty promises from bozos like Aquino. I know some folks think we are just wasting our time but I believe in the power of inception – planting the seed of doubt. One day, when the proverbial brown stuff hits the fan, they will remember what we said or who said it first. 😉

      2. @Add, yeah you’re right about the “just churn them out” part. If ‘appreciation’ is your primary motivation, you’ll quickly run out of steam in this business. The better driver of content creation is compelling ideas. Whenever we think of something, we hit the keyboard straightaway. I’m sure you of all people can relate to that… 😉

  4. This “who gets the credit” thing in this country is so absurd. I am an Expatriate and during my first years I could not believe that each bridge, each road etc being under construction had a big sign “a project of congressman soandso, a project of GMA..etc. WTF? They are just doing (sometimes)their job and still need to brag that they do things in their job description?? The only explanation for this ridiculous behavior may be a huge inferiority complex deeply rooted in local culture.

    1. You could be right, Hi Joe.

      Some of them think they are God’s gift to the Filipino people but in reality, they are merely administrators who aren’t doing anything significant. When they finally go to work, they just do minimum of what’s expected of them.

  5. Was the Philippine Embassy in Indonesia informed of the case after Mary Jane Veloso was arrested? Were Filipino officials informed when Mary Jane was tried in court. If so, there was dereliction in the performance of duty. If not, find reasons of blaming the Philippine government.

  6. Well ano ma expect natin sa Professional na MANDARAMBONG ng trillon pesos an kinukulimbat niya at ng kanyang KKKKs. Walang patawad ang animal na yan. Pera, pwesto, lakas, credit and you name it lahat nanakawin niya.

  7. What assistance can you give in a foreign country?

    I’m from the U.K and if i get arrested abroad i get no help from the British government.

    The British embassy will send someone to the prison within 48 hours for a chat.

    They will tell your family or friends back home, only if you give them permission.

    Pass on money to you that is sent from family or friends.

    Provide you with a list of local lawyers (they will not pay for one)

    If you are sentenced, they will visit you in prison once every 6 months or so. Just to make sure you are still alive.

    1. Yawn,
      I think thats about right also for me being Dutch when getting arrested abroad. Although, I dont know what my government will do in case I am on death row. I think it will become quite a different matter if I would be the CEO of big company or a dutch celebrity.

    2. @Yawn

      Well, for starters, the government could have given her legal assistance. The Philippine government rely so much on overseas workers to prop up the Philippine economy. The least they can do is help when the workers get in trouble. If Philippine govt is unprepared to help Filipino overseas workers who are in legal trouble, they should end the policy of sending them abroad.

      I heard that Veloso didn’t even have a proper interpreter. So who knows what they recorded in her file? At the moment, there is legal assistance fund in the absence of a counsel de oficio or court-appointed lawyer upon conviction and the penalty meted is life imprisonment or death. But I don’t think that was provided to Veloso.

      1. HA, LOL ! ‘….end the policy of sending them abroad.’, UH, it isn’t a Philippine Gov’t. policy (if it is ,please show me where it is written or noted as such policy)and the OFW’s are free to go or not to go,yes? DUH. No one is ‘sending them’ anywhere. They go of their own free will. Yawn’s statement about what the British gov’t. would do for him is just about what any other country on earth would do, IF EVEN THAT ! Why do Filipino’s think they are so special? While in another country A person is subject to the laws of that country, it is really simple and yet some people can’t figure it out.

        1. @BING BONG

          Your ignorance is showing. The policy of sending Filipino workers abroad was initiated in the 1970s by the Marcos regime. It was “sought to temporarily address the unemployment program and, at the same time, ease the country’s need for foreign exchange.” Back then labour exports focused mainly on construction workers, sailors and nurses. Throughout the years labor export diversified to include professionals, factory workers, and especially domestic workers.

          Of course no one is forcing people to go abroad to look for work. But the Philippine government became complacent, became too reliant on OFW remittances and did very little to improve the unemployment problem in the country. Now OFWs have become an integral part of the Philippine economy. Without the remittances, the economy will collapse. That’s how important OFWs are to the Philippines.

  8. It is NOT the place of any government to get it’s countries citizens out of criminal prosecutions while they are in other countries. Every passport I have ever seen states that once you enter the jurisdiction of another country other than the countries passport you have in your possesion, you are expected to be aware of the laws of that country and to abide by those laws and NOT break them.
    This woman is lucky that anyone in her government stuck up for her. If I were to be arrested in another country the last thing I would do is contact the government of my country, HA ! I’d hire the best crooked local lawyer I could find and try to pay my way out of the trouble I am in, or just sit in jail and try to escape.Facing a firing squad? I’d give them all the middle-finger salute and scream ‘FUCK YOU’ at them the whole time they were aiming their rifles at me, and then I’d be silent….for a long time ! the world ain’t fair and it is just tough shit sometimes, get over it.

    1. It depends, really. Veloso entered Indonesia as an OFW, not as a tourist. OFWs supposedly have access to assistance from government agencies:

      “On Labor Day in 1982, Marcos also issued Executive Order No. 797 that created the Welfare Fund for Overseas Workers to provide insurance coverage, legal and placement assistance, and remittance services, among others.”

      1. @ ILDA, You are citing a law that no longer exists, remember? The 1987 Republic of the Philippines constitution wiped that E.O. off the books, along with the Aguinaldo Doctrine. HA, The Philippines, the only country in the world that has revolutions and then keeps the laws of the old regime? Is that it ? In any case,IDC…and BWAH HA HA HA HA !!! There is no hope for that country, if these are the arguments that are put forth to settle disputes, huh…MAYBE, right a new law and legislate it? Nah…too EZ !

      2. No she did not enter Indonesia as an OFW. She did not even enter as a tourist looking for work – she went to Malaysia for that. She went to Indonesia purportedly at the behest of her “recruiter” who gave her a luggage and $500.

        President Aquino never claimed credit for MJV’s reprieve; the Indonesian government already did that for him. Please stop bashing the president and just be glad for the turn of events.

        1. Which part of the article do you consider “bashing” the President?

          Oh poor you…you feel so sorry for PNoy. Being the President surrounded by bodyguards 24/7 and living in luxury must be so hard compared to Mary Jane who has been languishing in Indonesian jail for 5 years now. Life must be so tough for PNoy, indeed.

          Yeah, PNoy didn’t personally claim credit for Veloso’s reprieve but his supporters did starting with his celebrity sister Kris Aquino who was quick to publish her praise on Instagram: “I’m proud of my brother. I’m proud of my President.” Then add celebrity has been Leah Navarro who chimed in by saying the reprieve wasn’t a miracle but the result of PNoy’s hard work! LOL

          PNoy is the luckiest man alive. He doesn’t need to lift a finger to win the hearts of the gullible crowd who are in love with mediocrity. His supporters do all the lifting for him.

    1. This is why it’s difficult to focus on the case. Why do the media people and government personnel mingle in the news their personal involvement? With many faces of the stories, it disorient the people.

    2. I see a few holes in this article. First, the writer admits that he wasn’t sure “exactly when Migrante and NUPL came in to help the family.” That means he doesn’t know when Migrante started helping and how much help they gave Indonesian authorities.

      Second, whats so special about the writer that the Philippine embassy shared their “secret plan” to save Mary Jane particularly since she claims the Philippine embassy didn’t want the media to publicise they were helping the OFW?

      Third, considering the writer said that the Philippine embassy didn’t want the publicity because it didn’t want to jeopardise Mary Jane’s case, why is this writer publicising it now? Mary Jane is not out of the woods yet. Her execution was just postponed to give way for the investigation of the recruiter. The bickering over who should take credit for the temporary reprieve could still jeopardise the case.

      Lastly, I do not understand why it is so important for PNoy’s supporters that PNoy get the credit? Are they that desperate for him to have an accomplishment?

      1. “I see a few holes in this article. First, the writer admits that he wasn’t sure “exactly when Migrante and NUPL came in to help the family.” That means he doesn’t know when Migrante started helping and how much help they gave Indonesian authorities.”

        – She also stated that the DFA were already working on the case way before Migrante knew about it. IMHO, Migrante just jumped into the bandwagon when the case has gone public and brainwashed May Jane’s family.

        “Second, whats so special about the writer that the Philippine embassy shared their “secret plan” to save Mary Jane particularly since she claims the Philippine embassy didn’t want the media to publicise they were helping the OFW?”

        – First of all, the writer is not the same level as you and the rest of GRP. If you read her profile,she’s a journalist who is now working in Jakarta. Maybe through her persistence that she was able to get some information Mary Jane’s case.

        ‘Third, considering the writer said that the Philippine embassy didn’t want the publicity because it didn’t want to jeopardise Mary Jane’s case, why is this writer publicising it now? Mary Jane is not out of the woods yet. Her execution was just postponed to give way for the investigation of the recruiter. The bickering over who should take credit for the temporary reprieve could still jeopardise the case.”

        – “At the time, they were preparing her first case review. They shared the background and the plans with me – to raise the translator issue – but asked me not to publish anything yet because they didn’t want to prejudice the upcoming case.”. She just published it now because she already got the permission to publish her story as the risk are no longer that great (at least to the Embassy officials.).

        “Lastly, I do not understand why it is so important for PNoy’s supporters that PNoy get the credit? Are they that desperate for him to have an accomplishment?”

        – Give credit when it’s due. If Pnoy’s supporters want to give the sole credit to the President, it’s their problem. PNoy and the DFA have done their part in saving Mary Jane’s life for the time being. Migrante have done little in saving her life except jumping to the bandwagon and exploit her family’s feeling of despair and mistrust to their own agenda.

        1. @Carlo

          Saying that this writer is not the same level as GRP writers doesn’t explain why she was privy to “classified” information from the Philippine Embassy.

          It seems the only reason you think she is more credible is because of her so-called “credential”. I’ve never even heard of her. Plus, her article is not balanced, which is something you’d expect from a real journalist. Why do I say it’s not balanced? Because she didn’t get the side of the family and Migrante. Most of what she wrote is just opinion. In short, she’s also one of the blind people touching the elephant.

          Do yourself a favour and avoid being gullible to articles favourable to PNoy particularly the ones published by rappler.

          The evidence speaks for itself, had the government given the right assistance, like giving her proper legal aid and investigated the illegal recruiter, Mary Jane would not have languished in jail for 5 years.

        2. @ Ilda:

          We are all blind men here. We couldn’t agree on how the elephant looks like. I try to look at both sides of the coin in the case. And I would stand by what I said.

          The gov’t has done more in Mary Jane’s case than the ones in Migrante. The President and Attorney General of Indonesia and even your fellow GRP writer benign0 has acknowledge the efforts of the gov’t to save her life. Migrante just came into the picture when the case started trending on social media. They exploited Mary Jane’s family feelings of despair and mistrust for their own agenda.

          And for God’s sake could just set aside your prejudices be more open-minded on the matter. I didn’t just read on Rappler but also reports of other foreign news agencies like ‘The Guardian” and BBC and piece them together. Give credit when it’s due. The Philippines’ diplomatic approached worked unlike the Australians who got two of their citizens executed.

        3. Gimme a break! If you read my article above, I didn’t deny that PNoy did something. However, it was on the 11th hour. The timing of the ASEAN summit was what worked for him too. Like I said, a written correspondence from Malacanang didn’t result in a favourable response from Indonesia before but a chance face to face meeting with Widodo at the summit did and more importantly, Widodo’s meeting with his people in Indonesia and the surrender of Sergio was what finally convinced him to grant the reprieve.

          Unfortunately for the Australian inmates, the Australian Prime Minister didn’t get a chance to speak to Widodo face to face. In fact, Widodo is careful about acknowledging that PNoy had a hand in it lest other nations copy what transpired between them and PNoy. If you guys are not careful, Indonesia will deny any request for reprieve for other death row inmates in the future if you keep insisting PNoy was instrumental in postponement of execution. And for God’s sake, Veloso is not out of the woods yet. Stop congratulating yourselves. You’re just ruining it for everyone.

          I don’t think Migrante is exploiting the situation, their just using it to drive a point.

          By the way, your article from rappler is still not credible due to lack of feedback from other parties – the Velosos and Migrante. It’s not a balanced article.

      1. FYI, it was the letter of then Senator Marcos re human trafficking and drugs trafficking to Pres. Widodo that stayed her execution and not his meeting with satan aquino. Credit goes only to the good senator.

  9. Why this one as some right for justice, some presumption that she is innocent while some other get shoot without trial in the country?
    If she was here she would be already killed by police while “resisting arrest”…
    When is good for your speech everybody can just get killed because they deserve it as drug pusher /dealer without judgement When is good for you another one deserve to be spare… also without judgment…
    Just a bunch of propaganda people…

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