Mary Jane Veloso, a 38-year-old Filipina domestic worker, was arrested in 2010 at the airport in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, for carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin in her luggage. She was sentenced to death by firing squad in 2015, but was granted a last-minute reprieve after the Philippine government intervened.
Veloso has always maintained her innocence, claiming that she was duped by her recruiter, Maria Cristina Sergio, who offered her a job as a maid in Malaysia. Veloso said that Sergio gave her a new suitcase to pack her belongings, which she later discovered was laced with drugs. Veloso also said that Sergio introduced her to a man named Ike, who gave her a plane ticket and a phone number to call once she landed in Indonesia.
Veloso’s trial in Indonesia was marred by several violations of her rights. She was not provided with a competent lawyer or a translator who could speak her native language, Tagalog. She was not informed of the charges against her or the evidence presented by the prosecution. She was not given the opportunity to testify or to cross-examine the witnesses. She was not allowed to appeal her conviction or to seek clemency from the president. She was not given access to consular assistance or legal aid from the Philippine government. She was kept in isolation and subjected to harsh conditions in prison.
Veloso’s case sparked a global campaign to save her life and to expose the plight of migrant workers who are vulnerable to human trafficking and drug smuggling. Her family, friends, lawyers, activists, and supporters launched various initiatives to raise awareness and to pressure the Indonesian and Philippine governments to spare her from execution. They organized rallies, vigils, petitions, letter-writing, and social media campaigns. They also sought the help of international organizations, such as the United Nations, the European Union, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to intervene on her behalf. They appealed to the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, to grant her clemency on humanitarian grounds.
Veloso’s fate remains uncertain, as she is still on death row in Indonesia, awaiting the outcome of her legal battles in the Philippines and Indonesia. In the Philippines, Sergio and her accomplices are facing charges of human trafficking, illegal recruitment, and estafa (fraud). Veloso’s lawyers are hoping that their testimonies will prove Veloso’s innocence and clear her name. In Indonesia, Veloso’s lawyers are seeking a judicial review of her case, based on new evidence and witnesses. Veloso’s lawyers are also hoping that the Indonesian government will recognize Veloso as a victim of human trafficking and drug trafficking, and grant her protection and rehabilitation.