The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Saturday lauded the efforts of the executive branch that allowed the family of death row inmate Mary Jane Veloso to reach out to the Indonesian government regarding her plight.
In a statement, the Commission said it welcomed the development on Veloso’s case, citing the “expression of commitment from Indonesian President Joko Widodo to reexamine the decision over the Filipina’s drug charges.”
“We are hopeful that this will finally result in her release and return to her family,” the CHR said.
Veloso’s family handed out letters to Jokowi and President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. in Malacañang Palace to appeal for her clemency. Jokowi was in Manila for an official visit at the time.
In a handwritten note addressed to Jokowi, Veloso’s mother Celia pleaded that assistance be provided to Mary Jane as she has been languishing in jail for 14 years despite her innocence. The Presidential Security Group (PSG) allowed the Veloso family’s legal counsel to enter Malacañang and give the letter.
The CHR said it “applauds the efforts of the Executive to assist the family of Veloso and allow them to reach out to the Indonesian government to ensure that no Filipino migrant worker falls victim to yet another death sentence.”
At the same time, the Commission said, “We also recognize the proactiveness of the Indonesian government, together with other stakeholders, for providing avenues to the Philippines to conduct dialogue and diplomatic exchanges in order to address Veloso’s situation.”
According to a “24 Oras” report by JP Soriano on Wednesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs said that the Indonesian President’s visit allowed for questions to be sent by the court to Veloso for her testimonies against her recruiters.
The DFA also said Marcos hoped for the discussions to end with clemency and Mary Jane’s freedom.
In 2015, Jokowi said the Indonesian government gave Veloso a “temporary reprieve” from her scheduled execution. The move was in response to a request from the Philippine government on Veloso’s case, Jokowi was quoted as saying.
The CHR expressed optimism that Veloso’s clemency would send a powerful message to other overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
“Her case still awaits prompt attention to possibly merit her clemency. If successful, such will open another hope for migrant workers who face the same condition,” the CHR said.
Advocacy group Migrante said Veloso has been asserting that she is innocent and merely a victim of human trafficking, despite her conviction and death sentence for drug trafficking in 2010.
A human trafficking case and a separate large-scale illegal recruitment case were filed against Veloso’s traffickers Julius Lacanilao and Cristina Sergio in the Regional Trial Court of Nueva Ecjia. A guilty verdict on the illegal recruitment case was handed down on the recruiters in 2020 but the trafficking case remains pending, Migrante said.
Meanwhile, the CHR also reminded that the Philippine government should not be remiss in its responsibility to ensure the protection of all OFWs.
The CHR said, “Just as the welfare of overseas Filipinos constitute a large proportion of the country’s interest as a State, it is incumbent upon the Commission and all government agencies to similarly persist through efforts that safeguard our migrant workers and ensure that no violations to their human rights are being committed against them.”
“As a State signatory to various bilateral and multilateral agreements that aim to provide concrete measures which ensure their welfare outside of their home countries, the obligation to craft counterpart mechanisms within the domestic sphere now falls into the hands of the Philippines,” the CHR said. — VDV, GMA Integrated News
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