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On death row in Indonesia, Mary Jane Veloso needs advocacy and prayers


Social media campaign could give her the chance to prove her innocence

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

Protesters march outside the Philippine Supreme Court on behalf of Mary Jane Veloso, a Philippine woman on death row in Indonesia. (Photo by Migrante International)

LOUISVILLE — Death row inmate Mary Jane Veloso needs your advocacy and prayers.

The need is critical, and the time is very, very short.

Veloso, a native of the Philippines, was arrested in Indonesia in April 2010 for smuggling heroin in the lining of a suitcase. Throughout her trial, she maintained her innocence, claiming the individuals who recruited her to work in Malaysia tricked her and used her as a drug mule to Indonesia.

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 so she could act as a witness during the trial of her alleged traffickers.

Two local recruiters confessed their role in bringing her to Malaysia; they are currently on trial in the Philippines.  Advocates are asking that Veloso be allowed to testify against the people who trafficked her, but the final deadline for depositions is Thursday, Sept. 26. The conviction of her accused traffickers could bring about her eventual release.

Migrant advocates gathered for a meeting hosted by Churches Witnessing with Migrants. The Rev. Cathy Chang, a PC(USA) mission co-worker, is second from right. (Photo by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines)

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. Indonesia will not allow her to travel to give her testimony.

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)  global partners, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Migrante International, Churches Witnessing with Migrants and PC(USA) mission co-worker Rev. Cathy Chang, among many others throughout the world, have been praying and advocating for Veloso. Chang is regional facilitator for Addressing Migration and Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia, based in the Philippines.

On Thursday’s court date, there will be a public prayer gathering outside the court in Santa Domingo, Nueva Ecija. The trial picks up at 8:30 a.m. and a caravan of supporters is heading to pack the courtroom and show support for Veloso.

The Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) General Assembly, the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, was one of many supporters throughout the world who submitted letters to the Philippine courts asking them to facilitate Veloso’s written deposition.

Nelson wrote, “As a church, we pray that these legal proceedings will uphold Mary Jane’s individual worth and responsibility. As a human trafficking victim, these proceedings should help her to assert her rights, including the right to testify against her recruiters.”

A poem written by Mary Jane Veloso, who’s on death row in Indonesia.

As Thursday’s deadline approaches, Veloso’s parents, Nanay Celia and Tatay Cesar Veloso, along with her children and advocates from around the world are asking for individuals and churches to help with an important last-minute social media campaign. They are asking for photos with supporters holding signs with messages including “Let Mary Jane Speak the Truth,andFree Mary Jane” and “Justice for all Human Trafficking Victims” be posted on social media. Include the hashtag #SavetheLifeofMaryJane.

Chang asks for prayers for Veloso, her parents and her two sons, Mark Daniel and Mark Darren.

“Please, also pray for the Supreme Court of the Philippine judicial system to find ways for Mary Jane’s deposition to be received quickly and effectively,” Chang said. “Pray that the Indonesian government would be willing to wait until the conclusion of the Philippine legal proceedings before pursuing any further legal steps against Mary Jane. And pray for the accused traffickers that they will receive accountability for their actions and reform their ways.”

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