1 year after, still saving Mary Jane: Let’s bring her home

April 29, 2016

By Migrante International

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Today, April 29, marks the one-year anniversary of Mary Jane Veloso’s temporary reprieve from execution, and she still needs saving from death row.

Exactly a year ago today, the whole Filipino nation and the world cried collective tears of joy for Mary Jane’s reprieve. We raged against the injustice done to Mary Jane. We vowed to continue to fight for justice for Mary Jane and for all migrant workers like her who have been neglected by the Philippine government. We vowed to bring her home to her children.

Exactly a year ago today, the Filipino people united in the stance that the Aquino government did too little, too late for Mary Jane. If not for national and international pressure, Aquino would not have been compelled to take urgent action. Because of government neglect and passivity, Aquino had placed Mary Jane on the brink of death row. Exactly a year ago today, we rejoiced as we raged.

Since Mary Jane’s temporary reprieve, another Filipino, Joselito Zapanta, was executed in Saudi Arabia last December 2015. Like Mary Jane, Zapanta was not given urgent and sufficient legal assistance by the Philippine government. We continue to express grave concern for the lives of other Filipinos on death row and in jails abroad. How many more Mary Janes and Joselitos will suffer the same fate? Zapanta was the eight Filipino executed abroad within Aquino’s term, the most number of executions under one regime since the Philippine labor export policy was implemented in the 1970s.

There are at least 90 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on death row, according to latest reports from the Department of Foreign Affairs. Eight have been executed, yet the government has not shown transparency nor accountability for failing to save their lives. The Aquino government has also failed to explain why funds for legal assistance for OFWs in distress have been slashed since 2010, while there have been reports that millions of pesos in legal funds for OFWs were unused since 2011.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of our kababayans fall victim to different forms of trafficking but resolutions of cases and accountability of traffickers and their coddlers in government remains low. One year after and Mary Jane still needs saving from death row. It is now more than imperative for the Philippine government to ensure that the trafficking and illegal recruitment cases filed against Mary Jane’s traffickers in Philippines courts embark without further delay.

The resolution of these cases will prove Mary Jane’s innocence once and for all. The resolution of these cases, together with our continued vigilance and untiring support, can pave the way for Mary Jane’s coming home to her family. Today, a year since Mary Jane’s temporary reprieve, we renew our vow to continue to fight for justice for Mary Jane and justice for all Filipino migrant workers and victims of trafficking.

More importantly, we reiterate our call to end the Philippines’ labor export policy that has placed Mary Jane and millions of our migrant workers at risk and in grave danger. The PH government’s labor export policy that systematically and aggressively peddled cheap labor of our Filipino workers and professionals abroad has become more entrenched and institutionalized under the Aquino administration. In his six years of office, Aquino has indisputably become the “trafficker-in-chief” of our OFWs.

Mary Jane was driven to desperation by extreme poverty, landlessness and enormous pressure as the caretaker of her children. She hailed from a poor family of sakadas (farm workers) in Hacienda Luisita. Mary Jane was forced to go abroad because the government had offered her nothing substantive and sustainable to address her family’s needs. Instead, what it had offered were programs that do nothing to address widespread unemployment and landlessness, the root causes of forced migration of millions of OFWs.

Today, we commemorate the people’s victory of saving Mary Jane by demanding a change in the very system that preyed on her desperation and almost took her life. We challenge all national candidates to address the plight of Mary Jane and millions of OFWs and their families. We do not want more Mary Janes to suffer because of government failure and neglect. The Aquino government should be held accountable for failing our OFWs. The next administration should exert all efforts to bring Mary Jane home, and to uphold the rights and welfare of millions of OFW all over the world. ###

Reference: Garry Martinez, 1st Nominee, 0939-3914418