‘Heed our call for Mama’s clemency’ – Mary Jane’s sons to Marcos Jr

From left: Mark Darren, Mary Jane’s youngest, her parents Cesar and Celia and Mark Danielle, the eldest son of Mary Jane. Photo by A.M. Umil/Bulatlat)

Mark Danielle pleaded to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to seek clemency for Mary Jane as she is a victim of human trafficking. “We hope that President Bongbong Marcos will heed our call. We miss her terribly. She is a victim,” Mark Danielle said.


MANILA – Mark Darren and Mark Danielle are overjoyed to finally see their mother, Mary Jane Veloso, five years after their last visit. Their happiness, however, is just temporary as they still have to leave behind their mother who has been in prison for the past 13 years.

“We are thankful for all those who helped us to visit Mama. We were happy to see her but it’s sad to leave her the next day,” Mark Darren said in Filipino.

Mark Danielle said that the visit was initially for three days but it was reduced to only two days. “But Mama said to just let it pass, what’s important is that we’re together and just be thankful for the days we’re together,” he said.

Mark Darren and Mark Danielle, along with their grandparents Celia and Cesar, traveled from Nueva Ecija to Yogyakarta to visit Mary Jane on June 12 to 13. The Commission on Human Rights facilitated the family’s request to visit Mary Jane with the Department of Foreign Affairs-Office of the Undersecretary for the Migrant Workers Affairs. Gabriela Women’s Partylist Rep. Arlene Brosas and Pangsinan Rep. Rachel Arenas, who also chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also helped the family in their visit to Mary Jane.

Mark Danielle pleaded to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to seek clemency for Mary Jane as she is a victim of human trafficking. “We hope that President Bongbong Marcos will heed our call. We miss her terribly. She is a victim,” Mark Danielle said.

Deposition on human trafficking case

For the past eight years there has been no progress in the human trafficking, illegal recruitment and estafa filed against Mary Jane’s illegal recruiters Ma. Kristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao.

This is because Mary Jane, key witness in the case, has not yet given her testimony despite the Supreme Court’s ruling for her to do so.

Josalee Deinla, secretary general of National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers and private prosecutor, said that the case is still pending before the Regional Trial Court Branch 89 in Baloc, Nueva Ecija. “The standing incident before the trial court is the place where Mary Jane’s testimony or deposition will be taken after the Supreme Court (SC) ruled with finality that she is allowed to give her testimony through written interrogatories even if she is detained at a facility abroad.”

Read: SC allows Mary Jane Veloso to testify against recruiters
Read: Full Text: Mary Jane Veloso narrates how she ended up in death row 

In 2019, the SC ruled that Mary Jane could give her testimony before the Philippine Consular Office and Indonesian officials.

However, Deinla said that the Indonesian government only allowed Mary Jane to give her testimony inside the detention facility. The NUPL filed a motion to the SC in 2021 for the change of venue where she could give her testimony but the high court said that their ruling is final and executory. Thus, it is now at the hands of the executive department to respond to the Indonesian government’s condition that Mary Jane could give her testimony inside the detention facility, Deinla said, adding that bilateral talks between the two governments are ongoing for Mary Jane to finally testify against Sergio and Lacanilao.

Cesar Veloso describing how they were welcomed by detainees in women’s correctional institute. (Photo by A.M. Umil/Bulatlat)

Concepcion also said that based on their dialogues with different institutions in Indonesia, the prosecution of Mary Jane’s illegal recruiters will help in their campaign for clemency. This is why they continue to push for Mary Jane’s deposition so the court will finally hear her side of the story.

Read: Marcos Jr. urged to act on getting testimony of Filipina on death row in Indonesia 
Read: Lawyers group asserts justice for Mary Jane Veloso, not punishment 
Read: Court finds Mary Jane Veloso’s recruiters guilty of illegal recruitment 

Despite challenges in the legal system, Deinla said they are not losing hope for Mary Jane and her family to attain justice. “We are echoing the calls of the family. We call for clemency for Mary Jane so she can go home here in the Philippines so she can personally attend the hearing of the case. And also so that she could be with her sons. The continuing global campaign to free Mary Jane is a testimony that the world has not given up on Mary Jane. The NUPL renewed its commitment to assist Filipino migrant workers in distress and those who have fallen victims to human trafficking.”

Meanwhile, Joanna Concepcion, Migrante International chairperson, said that Marcos Jr had the opportunity to personally ask Indonesia President Joko Widodo for clemency for Mary Jane. But their call was not heeded.


Meanwhile, Cesar expressed relief that Mary Jane is well-loved inside and outside the detention facility in Indonesia. He said that they were warmly welcomed by the officials in the detention. “The detainees too are warm. They were cheering, clapping when we came inside the detention (place) when we attended the mass.”

It is also heart warming for Celia to know that her daughter was never alone in her fight for clemency. “I thought there was no one with her when she was transferred to another facility. But when we got there (Indonesia) I was overwhelmed to see such massive support. They love Mary Jane and they really did not leave her.”

Making all the time worth it, Celia said her two grandsons consistently embraced and kissed their mother. “I let them be. It does not matter that I could not hug my daughter for a long time because her children misses her so much.”

Celia said that Mary Jane was also able to save some of her income in batik-making and gave it to her sons when they visited. “She told her son, ‘I saved this for you.’ They did not want to get it because they know she also has needs inside the prison. But Mary Jane insisted.”

But what worries them now is Mary Jane’s health. “She was saying that she is not feeling well. It’s as if something will come out whenever she is coughing,” Cesar said.

For her part, Celia said that Mary Jane asked her if there is a history of cancer in the family. “She said she could feel some cyst. Maybe she is thinking that it was cancer.”

(Photo by A.M. Umil/Bulatlat)

Cesar said Mary Jane has a scheduled check-up with a doctor but it was postponed for a week. “I was thinking, she was able to be saved from prosecution but what if she’ll die from illness inside the prison?” Celia asked.

Despite the uncertainty in Mary Jane’s situation, Celia said that her daughter is not losing hope. “It was Mary Jane who would always give us hope. She always tells us to be strong.”

With more voice, call will be much louder

Also present in the press conference were relatives and other victims of human trafficking.

Maricel Santos, 40, said that with more voices, the call for Mary Jane’s clemency will be louder. “She has been in prison for 13 years and her case is not progressing.”

Santos’s husband Ricardo was implicated in a drug trafficking case in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). According to news reports, UAE Ambassador to the Philippines Mohamed Obaid Salem Alqataam Alzaabi said Marcos Jr appealed for the pardon of three Filipinos on death row.

Santos said that her husband is one of those three Filipinos who were granted pardon. “In my case, government agencies have given me a runaround. But when I met Migrante International they assisted me. Hearing other stories (of OFWs) also gave me hope.”

Lucy Ortega, 42, is one of the 52 women OFWs who are victims of human trafficking, also expressed support to the Veloso family in their call for justice. Ortega and others were detained in the Philippine Embassy in Syria for over two years. She fled from her abusive employer in 2016 and sought refuge at the Philippine Embassy’s shelter. But instead of facilitating their repatriation, Ortega said that they suffered two more years inside the embassy without connection to their families as officers of the embassy confiscated their cellphones.

Last May, Ortega and others filed charges against Charges d’Affaires Alexander Lamadrid for human trafficking, abuse and gross negligence. “We even protested in the DFA because he was just transferred there. He needed to be held accountable. We call for justice, for us as well as Mary Jane.”

Concepcion said that the campaign for Mary Jane’s clemency continues here and abroad. “Just like when we call to save Mary Jane from execution, we should continue to call for clemency for Mary Jane and make this call as louder as possible.”

(RTS, DAA) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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