MANILA – It has been two months since she was temporarily spared the firing squad, but Mary Jane Veloso remains on death row, thousands of miles away.
This is the stark reality that keeps a feeling of dread over the Veloso family, as they stood in front of a chapel in Caudillo village in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija. A thanksgiving mass was held on June 29 to commemorate the second month since Mary Jane’s execution was stayed.
“There is relief among us. But every time we talk about or even mention that Mary Jane is still on death row, we get very emotional, especially my father,” Darling Veloso, Mary Jane’s sister, told Bulatlat.com.
Mary Jane, whose execution was stayed by Indonesian President Joko Widodo at dawn of April 29, was sentenced to death for carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin in 2010. Her case has become a rallying point to press the Aquino government to look into the cases of overseas Filipino workers in distress and on death row.
Charges against her recruiter, Maria Kristina Sergio and her live-in partner Julius Lacanilao, has been heard and submitted for resolution at the Department of Justice (DOJ) in early June. The two are charged with human trafficking, illegal recruitment, and estafa.
“We are not yet okay. We would only be okay once Mary Jane is here with us,” said Celia, Mary Jane’s mother.
“We appeal to the DOJ, no more delays, please. Release the resolution now. Mary Jane remains on the brink of death for as long as the death sentence is not lifted. Two months has been way too long. The evidence against Sergio et al are solid,” said Sol Pillas, Migrante International secretary-general.
After the mass, the Veloso family, along with their relatives, neighbors and supporters, walked toward their home where a short program was held.
Three homes sit in a small parcel of land owned by the family of Darling’s husband Ronaldo Cando: one for Darling’s family, another for Celia and Cesar and for Maritess’ family. In nearly every corner of the three houses are photos of Mary Jane.
A big framed cross-stitched piece on Jesus’ Ascension hangs in Darling’s living room. She said it was sewn by Mary Jane in prison.
Their houses were made of light materials. When it rains, Celia said, they go to Darling’s house, which is the sturdiest. A few years back, flood reached as high as their roof, and they, along with other neighbors, had to seek shelter at the big house in front of the family’s compound.
Most of their neighbors make a living from planting vegetables and calamansi (calamondin). Their village is known in Cabanatuan City as a source of vegetables.
Celia said their lives have not yet returned to normal. She and her husband, Cesar, had refrained from continuing their “rolling store,” taking extra precaution because suspicious-looking men lurk in their village, asking about them and taking pictures of their home.
“Mahirap na. Baka ma-tyempuhan,”(We have to be careful; they might get to us.) she said.
A few days ago, she needed money to buy rice for the day, so she went around nearby villages to get payment from those who bought from her rolling store on credit months ago, before she became busy with the campaign to save Mary Jane.
Those who recognized her, Celia said, not only paid for what they bought, but even gave her rice. She said she was able to get at least half a sack of rice.
Celia said such gesture from strangers who share their pain and struggle truly warms her heart.
She said that although the family remains impoverished, when it comes to moral support, the Veloso family is already a millionaire.
“The fight is not yet over. Mary Jane has yet to return to us,” Celia said during the program.
Celia admitted that she is getting impatient as they await the DOJ resolution on the case filed against Sergio and Lacanilao.
Josalee Deinla, a member of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, said the DOJ resolution might be released in a few days. She said they expect a more speedy resolution, not only because it is a “high profile” case, but also because a life is at stake. The Indonesian government, she added, is waiting for updates on the case.
The Philippine private lawyers are providing real time updates to the Rudyantho and Partners, the Indonesian law firm hired by the Philippine embassy in Jakarta.
On June 29, they wrote to concerned government agencies, asking for updates on the case.
Celia noted that Mary Jane’s sons are faring better after their mother’s stay of execution. Mark Daniel, she said, used to have difficulties in school and in dealing with his classmates.
“He used to fight with his classmates. But after seeing his mother who told him to be a good boy, he improved a lot. I hope he will keep that up, and that her mother would soon be with them,” she said.
Darling said the family prays the rosary often. And they pray for one thing: to be reunited with Mary Jane on Christmas. (bulatlat.com)