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There’s still time to help Mary Jane Veloso prove her innocence

A victory for Veloso is a defeat for human traffickers everywhere

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

Last week, supporters held a pre-trial prayer vigil for Mary Jane Veloso. (Photo courtesy of Snap Mabanta)

LOUISVILLE — Mary Jane Veloso has 26 days to provide testimony against her traffickers who are currently on trial in the Philippines. She is the last witness for the prosecution. If she successfully testifies, she may be released from prison in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. If she doesn’t, she will remain on death row, awaiting execution for a crime she did not commit.

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 and came so close to being executed in April 2015 that many media outlets around the world incorrectly reported that she was dead. Amidst the public clamor naming her as 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 are currently on trial in the Philippines.  Advocates are asking that Veloso be allowed to testify against the people who trafficked her. The final deadline for her to submit a deposition was Thursday, September 26. The court did not allow her testimony but did give the prosecution until October 28 to submit it.

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. An appeal to the Philippine Supreme Court was filed months ago, but there has been no ruling.

Global partners of the PC(USA), including the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Migrante International, Churches Witnessing with Migrants and mission co-worker Rev. Cathy Chang are among many throughout the world who are praying and advocating for Veloso. Chang is regional facilitator for Addressing Migration and Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia, based in the Philippines.

“For over nine years, churches and migrant groups have been supporting Mary Jane Veloso and her family. Now that you know about Mary Jane Veloso, pray that she will be allowed to speak against her traffickers,” Chang said. “Pray privately and pray publicly through your actions of support. Speak up for her and other trafficking victims whose stories are sadly often silenced.”

Photographed in the Chapel at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Kentucky, Presbyterian Mission Agency staff show their support for Mary Jane Veloso. (Photo by Tammy Warren)

Chang said one important way to help is to put public pressure on the Philippine courts by participating in a social media campaign. Supporters are asked to photograph themselves or with groups holding signs with messages including “Let Mary Jane Speak the Truth, “Free Mary Jane” and “Justice for all Human Trafficking Victims.” Then post the photos on social media, using the hashtags

#SavetheLifeofMaryJane, #SaveTheLifeOfMaryJaneVeloso, #LetMaryJaneTestify.


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