Filipinos worldwide rejoice over Mary Jane's reprieve
MANILA, Philippines – Beyond the Philippines and Indonesia, Filipinos from all over the world rejoiced over the temporary reprieve on Mary Jane Veloso’s execution, but assert that the struggle for Veloso’s life and against human trafficking is far from over.
The 33-year-old Veloso, a mother of two, is an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) charged with death penalty in Indonesia after being convicted of drug trafficking.
Set to be executed by firing squad with eight other drug convicts during early morning on Wednesday, April 29, Indonesia delayed Veloso’s execution in order to allow her to testify against alleged human traffickers.
The reprieve came after a phone call from Philippine President Benigno Aquino III to Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, and the surrender of Veloso’s alleged recruiter, Maria Kristina Sergio. (READ: Reprieve allows Mary Jane Veloso to testify)
Three Filipinos – Richard Barquin, Jenab-i Pareja and Irma Bajar – and the Philippine Forum based in Queens, New York shared their thoughts with Rappler on the reprieve on Veloso’s execution.
What caused the delay? The overseas Filipinos shared their opinions. (READ: Jokowi on Mary Jane Veloso: I listened to rights groups)
Bajar from GABRIELA USA, Pareja from the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP) and the Philippine Forum from Queens all agreed that the reprieve was a result of the collective action aimed at saving Veloso’s life.
GABRIELA USA is the United States chapter of local feminist group GABRIELA National Alliance of Women while the Philippine Forum is a community grassroots organization that offers services and raises awareness on roots for Filipino immigrants in New York.
According to Pareja, “the decision shows the organizing power of the [Filipino] people.”
Bajar added that international support for Veloso’s cause was crucial in leading to this decision by Indonesia.
Richard Barquin, a glass installer in Trinidad and Tobago, on the other hand, stressed the importance of prayers from Filipinos around the world until the set time of Veloso’s execution.
Fight not over
Bajar, Pareja and the Philippine Forum were all firm in saying that they will stand with Veloso until the very end. They explained that the fight for her life is not over and collective action should not end with the reprieve.
According to Pareja, “we must keep the pressure and the movement going so that Mary Jane can come back home safe."
“We will not stop until she is fully released and brought back home to her family,” the Philippine Forum added.
Bajar, speaking on behalf of the Gabriela USA chapters in New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC, San Francisco and Seattle, stated that “our fight is not finished because Mary Jane is still not free.”
Larger institutional problems
The three parties also acknowledge that the ordeal of Veloso sheds light on certain isssues faced by OFWs.
Bajar and the Philippine Forum pointed out that the Aquino government is accountable for Veloso’s ordeal.
The Philippine Forum frowned upon Aquino for “failing to take action and give protection [to Veloso] within those five years ever since she was convicted and sentenced to death.”
Bajar, on the other hand, believes Aquino is not just responsible for the fate of Veloso, but also for the many other OFWs forced to leave the country in search of greener pastures.
“We will continue to expose President Aquino’s continued government neglect and failures to the people, which has forced more than 6,000 Filipinos leave the country everyday like Mary Jane,” Bajar said.
The Philippine Forum added that Veloso’s case should serve as a signal for the country to end sending OFW’s away from the country. “We demand for the Philippine government to create decent jobs at home.”
Bajar and the Philippine Forum also criticized Indonesia for its "lopsided" judicial system.
They expressed their condolences to the families of the 8 other convicts, calling them “victims of a failed system.” – Rappler.com