Relatives of Filipina maid on Indonesian death row make last-ditch appeal

The parents, siblings and two young sons of Mary Jane Veloso delivered an open letter to the Indonesian embassy, addressed to president Joko Widodo, and appealed for 'mercy and compassion'.

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MANILA // Relatives of a Filipina maid, who is facing the death penalty after being convicted of drug trafficking in Indonesia, made a last-minute appeal for clemency on Wednesday.

The parents, siblings and two young sons of Mary Jane Veloso delivered an open letter to the Indonesian embassy, addressed to president Joko Widodo, and appealed for “mercy and compassion” for the 30-year-old single mother.

The letter said Veloso was tricked into carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin in her luggage and that she was the victim of a drug syndicate.

Indonesia’s highest court last week denied a request by Veloso to review her conviction. She is among 10 foreign drug smugglers in the country to be facing death by a firing squad.

The Philippine government said on Wednesday that it would file a second appeal.

“We are begging for mercy beloved president, don’t impose the death penalty on my daughter, said Veloso’s mother, Celia Veloso.

With tears streaming down his cheeks, Veloso’s father said the syndicate that used his daughter as an unwitting drug mule had pledged to kill all family members if they reported the racket to authorities or went to the media.

“Life’s been hard. We’ve been living in fear. My daughter’s recruiters have been threatening us ... they threatened to kill us one by one,” said 59-year-old Cesar Veloso.

Mary Jane Veloso’s sons, aged 6 and 12, held a placard that read “Mercy and compassion for Mary Jane and family”. About a dozen activists from Migrante International — which works to protect the rights of overseas workers from the Philippines — held up a large picture of Veloso behind bars and a banner saying “Save the life of Mary Jane Veloso”.

In 2010, Veloso travelled to Indonesia where a family friend — her godsister — reportedly said a domestic worker job awaited her. The friend allegedly provided Veloso with the suitcase where the drugs were discovered when she arrived at an airport on the Indonesian island of Java.

Migrante International has called on the Philippine government to arrest this friend, who remains at large.

Veloso’s family is from a poor farming town, about a three hours’ drive north of Manila, and the single mother had sought to provide for her two young sons by working as a maid overseas.

She initially worked for nine months in Dubai in 2009 but was forced to come home after her employer tried to rape her, Veloso’s father said.

It was then that her godsister offered her work as a maid in Malaysia.

When Veloso got to Malaysia, however, she was told the job was no longer available but that there was another one in Indonesia if she flew there immediately, her parents said.

About 10 million Filipinos work overseas, with most heading abroad to escape deep poverty.

Many work in menial jobs or face dangerous work conditions, but even salaries of US$300 (Dh1,101) a month are more than can be earned at home.

The government has previously warned Filipinos heading abroad about the dangers of drug traffickers trying to exploit or dupe them.

The are 125 Filipinos on death row around the world, with many of them convicted of drug trafficking, said Migrante’s chair, Connie Bragas-Regalado.

Migrante chapters in Hong Kong, Europe, Canada and Australia are scheduled to march to Indonesian embassies on Thursday to appeal for clemency for Veloso.

* Associated Press and Agence France-Presse