On May 29, a month since Mary Jane Veloso was granted a reprieve from execution in Indonesia, the Save Mary Jane Alliance gathered together to sound the call for continued vigilance with regard to the Veloso case.
A month since, we now also know the name Jennifer Dalquez. To know the names of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) because they are on death row might be one of the saddest stories of this country.
Mary Jane, a month after
The goal, as far as Veloso is concerned, is to get the Indonesian government to grant her clemency. According to The Alliance, “Clemency may mean commutation or pardon, depending on which a Presidential Decree grants.” There is hope in the fact that on the day of Veloso’s reprieve, the Indonesian Embassy was “quoted as saying that a temporary reprieve ‘has a positive effect’ on Mary Jane’s case and that a permanent reprieve is not impossible.”
In early May, Palace Spokesperson Abigal Valte had said that the President had yet to decide on whether or not he would again appeal for clemency for Veloso: “Down the line, that’s a consideration, but that has not been decided yet. So hinihintay natin ‘yung magiging talagang kakalabasan ‘nung imbestigasyon at ‘nung iba pang ginagawa ng mga law enforcement agencies natin.” (GMANetwork.com, 9 May)
Veloso recruiter Kristina Sergio has since declared that Veloso was innocent of the drug trafficking charges. In her counter-affidavit, Sergio reportedly states that she “firmly believe(s) Mary Jane Veloso is innocent,” and that “<Mary Jane> was victimized and taken advantage of because of her vulnerability.” (Interaksyon.com, 20 May)
On May 27, Department of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima took a stand on the request for clemency. “On the premise that the investigation will prove she was a hapless victim, [then we may ask for]possible executive clemency, which may mean either pardon or the commutation of sentence. But we don’t want to be harping on this. <…> We would not want the Indonesian government to be pressured by our government.” (Inquirer.net, 27 May)
De Lima continued: “We don’t want to push executive clemency, because in the final analysis, it’s going to be the call of the Indonesian authorities. We will let the Indonesian lawyers make their next move.” (Inquirer.net, 27 May)
One can’t help but wonder why this refusal to ask clemency for Veloso, the earlier the better, so that we might move forward and focus on the next OFW-turned-victim of circumstance, jailed or on death row somewhere in the world.
The Save Mary Jane Alliance meanwhile asserts that “while it takes into consideration statements made by Philippine authorities that they will not as yet seek clemency for Mary Jane due to ‘diplomatic considerations,’ it believes that diplomatic appeals can also be made through ‘people-to-people relations’ on grounds of mutual respect and international solidarity.”
And especially at this time when we are all being told about the value of Asean integration, about coming together and helping one another toward becoming a competitive and productive region, seems like freeing the innocent should be a major step in this region’s search for identity.
Her name’s Jennifer
The story of Jennifer Dalquez has yet to become clear. Right now, this is all the information we have.
On May 20, Dalquez was “meted the death penalty by the Al Ain trial court in Dubai” (Inquirer.net, 24 May). The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirms this bit of news, at the same time that they confirm that Dalquez is appealing the sentence. The DFA also said that the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi has provided Dalquez with the necessary legal assistance (Sunstar.com.ph, 24 May), and DFA Undersecretary Jesus I. Yabes said that the embassy has also conducted regular visits to Dalquez to provide for her personal needs and update her on the case.
According to Dalquez’s family, she had left General Santos to work as a maid in the UAE in 2011. She was set to come home in January of this year. (Philstar.com, 28 May) But in December last year, her employer attempted to rape her at knife point. Dalquez would kill her employer with that same knife he had threatened her with. On December 12, Dalquez was arrested. (ABSCBNNews.com, 23 May)
It was Dalquez herself who would call her mother Rajima to deliver the tragic news of her death penalty.
Migrants in distress
Certainly the case of Veloso is different from that of Dalquez in many ways. And yet it is also clear that it is what these two cases have in common that demand our attention: both Filipinas are victims. One, of illegal recruitment and an international drug trafficking syndicate; the other, of attempted rape and abuse by her employer. We were told soon after Veloso was granted reprieve that there are 88 more OFWs on death row all around the globe.
At the Save Mary Jane Alliance gathering, Nanay Celia Veloso promised to stand by other migrant famillies who have sons and daughters on death row elsewhere in the world. She asked migrant families not to be silenced by fear, and to speak out about their stories, the earlier the better.
It would do us well to heed Nanay Celia’s call, too, and not forget all the Mary Janes and Jennifers still out there. The clock is ticking.