Group blames Jakarta, Manila for Veloso's plight (Business Mirror (Philippines))

THE human-rights watchdog Karapatan has urged United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) President Joachim Rucker to prevent the scheduled execution of an overseas Filipino worker by an Indonesian firing squad.

In a letter dated April 15, Karapatan asked Rucker to cite both Indonesia and the Philippines, state parties to international human-rights covenants, for failing to respect Mary Jane Veloso’s right to due process, legal assistance and violation of fair play and due process.

We appeal to the UNHRC to exercise its moral suasion on the Indonesian government in overturning the death sentence on Veloso and possibly grant her clemency. We implore the council to take meaningful measures, including a review of human-rights records and compliance to international human-rights instruments of its member-states, to hold the Indonesian and Philippine governments accountable for this injustice on Veloso and her family, Karapatan said.

Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay told Rucker that Veloso, a mother of two, was sentenced to death by the Indonesian Supreme Court in April 2010 for drug trafficking.

Palabay said Veloso worked in Dubai from 2009 to 2010 and came back to the Philippines the same year after her employer allegedly tried to rape her.

On April 22, 2010, she was illegally recruited by the daughter of her godfather to work as a domestic worker in Malaysia. When she arrived in Kuala Lumpur, the same person told her that the job was not available anymore and that she would instead be transferred to Indonesia, contrary to the terms of her contract.

Upon her arrival at the Yogyakarta airport, Veloso was apprehended by customs officials. It was there that she found out that she was tricked into carrying luggage containing 2.6 kilos of heroin wrapped in aluminum foil, with an estimated street value of $500,000. She had been set up as a drug mule and was arrested by the police, Palabay added.

Perhaps aware that Veloso was merely used by a drug syndicate to bring the stash to a contact in Yogyakarta, Indonesian prosecutors asked that she be sentenced to life in prison but the court instead slapped her with a death sentence.

Karapatan argued that Veloso never understood Bahasa and, during her investigation, the interpreter employed was a mere student who was not accredited as a court translator.

Worse, Palabay told Rucker, the Philippine Embassy never provided her with a lawyer and was represented by a public defender summoned by the police.

Without proper counsel and without competent translation of the proceedings, Veloso was practically given a raw deal, Karapatan insisted.

Veloso’s case was submitted for judicial review, but her appeal was rejected by the Indonesian Supreme Court last March 26, 2015. News reports state that Indonesia is preparing to transfer

Veloso from the city of Yogyakarta to the maximum security prison in Nusakambangan Island of Central Java to await execution by firing squad, Palabay told Rucker.

The Philippine government did not provide a lawyer during the crucial period of her six-month trial. Mary Jane was convicted after a very brief trial period-on October 2010, just six months after she was arrested. Public prosecutors asked the court to sentence Mary Jane to life imprisonment but the judges handed down a death sentence.

Based on the timeline provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Philippine Embassy in Indonesia appealed the trial court sentence to the Indonesia Court of Appeals in October 2010. The embassy-hired lawyer filed a final appeal to the Supreme Court in February 2011, she added.

We fully agree with Migrante International, an organization of Filipino migrants handling the case of Veloso, that the Philippine government’s appeal for clemency for Mary Jane since 2011 was a passive and perfunctory effort, with no further attempts of such after the moratorium against executions was lifted by then newly elected Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III only intervened more than a year after Veloso had already been sentenced to death, through a request for clemency with then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who imposed a moratorium on executions during

his term.

This was later rejected by Widodo, who lifted the moratorium as soon as he took office, Karapatan added.

For five years, the Philippine government and its DFA did not actively initiate contact and worked with the Veloso family, nor provide regular updates on the status of her case. According to Mary Jane’s parents, Cesar and Celia, and her sister, Maritess, they learned of Mary Jane’s imprisonment not from the government but from a phone call from Mary Jane herself, and a few days later from her alleged recruiter, Kristina Sergio, Palabay said.