Racial Justice Resources

Mary Jane Veloso’s traffickers are convicted


Last week’s convictions may lead to her eventual freedom

by the Rev. Cathy Chang, World Mission regional facilitator | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Supporters and members of the family of Mary Jane Veloso celebrate an initial legal victory. Mission Co-Worker Cathy Chang is on the far right. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — Mary Jane Veloso, on death row in Indonesia for more than nine years, is finally celebrating at least a partial legal victory.

The two Filipinos who recruited her, Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, were recently convicted of large-scale illegal recruitment. Three other women who lived in the same neighborhood as Veloso spoke against them in court. Their team of lawyers has been working with Veloso’s legal team.  The hope is that their conviction results in full justice for Veloso.

Originally, Veloso traveled from her home in the Philippines to Malaysia to fill a job as a domestic worker. She was told the job was no longer available in Malaysia, and the recruiters rerouted her to Indonesia. Veloso was carrying a suitcase her recruiters provided lined with heroin. She denies knowing anything about the drugs.

She was sentenced to death in October 2010 but spared because of a moratorium on capital punishment by then Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. She was to be executed in April 2015 after the election of Joko Widodo as president. Amidst the public clamor naming her a human trafficking victim, Veloso was granted a stay of execution on April 29, 2015, so she could act as a witness during the trial of her alleged traffickers.

The Philippine courts initially granted permission for Veloso to give a deposition under specific guidelines, but the accused traffickers said that violated their constitutional right to meet their accuser face-to-face. The appeals court overturned the initial ruling and prevented her testimony. In October 2019, the Philippine Supreme Court granted permission for her deposition.

In the coming weeks, Veloso is expected to testify through deposition.

Attorney Josalee Deinla wrote in a statement issued by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers: “We are of course glad that justice has been served even if only partially and initially through Mary Jane’s fellow victims.  Even if their case is distinct from Mary Jane’s, we believe that [the accused’s] conviction stands as a testament to Mary Jane’s story — that she was not a drug courier but an unwitting victim of the same illegal recruiters.”

Letters from Filipino and international supporters including the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, expressed support for her. Other global partners of the PC(USA), including the United Church of Christ in the PhilippinesMigrante International and Churches Witnessing with Migrants are among many throughout the world praying and advocating for Veloso.

After hearing the guilty verdict at last week’s trial, Veloso’s parents, Cesar and Celia, shared their happiness with smiles and raised arms: “We are expecting that the truth will finally be revealed, that Mary Jane will be able to speak,” they said. “When Mary Jane is finally able to tell the truth, God will lead the way.”

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