By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – “Continue fighting until I am free.” Mary Jane Veloso told this to her eldest son Mark Danielle when her family visited her in a detention facility in Wonosari town, Yogyakarta, Indonesia early last week.
Along with Mark was his brother Mark Darren and Mary Jane’s parents Celia and Cesar.
They were joined by members of Migrante International, as well as United Church of Christ in the Philippines Bishop Nonie Francisco and lawyers Minerva Lopez and Edre Olalia, national president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL). Also present during the visit were representatives of the Philippine Embassy in Jakarta and the Department of Foreign Affairs-Office of the Undersecretary for the Migrant Workers Affairs in Manila who helped facilitate the family’s visit.
The Veloso family spent two days with Mary Jane who was imprisoned in 2010 for unwittingly bringing illegal drugs to Indonesia. She was sentenced to death but her execution was put on hold after a strong international campaign to save her life.
In a statement, Celia said that they are elated to visit Mary Jane once again. “Mary Jane was unable to sleep because she has been longing to be reunited with us. She saw her two sons already grown into young men.”
“When they saw their mom, they did not want to let go of her, always kissing and hugging her. They missed their mother so much,” she added.
Celia said that they were able to share stories, pray and attend the mass with Mary Jane and saw her play the guitar and piano.
The family also witnessed how Mary Jane was treated by the staff and officers of the women’s correctional institute.
“We are very thankful to the people of Indonesia for their continuous support and love for my daughter, especially the people who are with her inside the prison. They prepared and cooked fried rice, hotdog, and chicken nuggets for our visit. I feel at ease knowing that she is being taken care of. We are very happy that we were able to visit my daughter,” Cesar said. He added that Mary Jane badly wanted to go home with them in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, Joanna Conception, chairperson of Migrante International, said that they reassured Mary Jane that the campaign for clemency and freedom continues to get more support from many people across the globe who stand with her as a victim of human trafficking. “It was a joyful occasion to see Mary Jane and her family express their love and longing for one another. At the same time, this reunion serves as a reminder that it has been a difficult 13-year journey for Mary Jane and her family, and we challenge President Bongbong Marcos Jr. to take more proactive actions to appeal to the Indonesian government to grant clemency for Mary Jane.”
For his part, Mark said that her mother is a victim of human trafficking and that she is a good person and a good mother. “I hope she will be given clemency at the soonest possible time so we can be together. Our life in the Philippines may be simple, but what’s important is that we are together.”
For Celia, visiting her daughter gave them the strength they needed to carry on. She also wished for her daughter’s freedom. “I’ve really missed my daughter. I hope this is our last visit to Mary Jane because we want her to be able to go home. We should not wait for one more year. I will never give up fighting until my daughter is set free.”
In 2020, her recruiters Ma. Kristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao were found guilty of violating the Migrant Workers Act of 1995 by the Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Court. (RTS, DAA)