Statement of the National Union of People’s Lawyers on the first year anniversary since overseas Filipino worker, Mary Jane Veloso was granted reprieve
“What do you say when Mary Jane’s youngest 6 year old son pulls you aside and coyly whispers in a bashful tone: “Atorni, iuwi nyo na nanay ko ah”? ( “Attorney, please bring my mother back home already, ok? “)
One year after that extraordinary and unprecedented reprieve where we all collectively saved victim Mary Jane from the valley of the shadow of death , we pose, contemplate and ask: When is she coming home?
Mary Jane, a young poor mother of two pushed by her own government to work abroad because she wanted a decent life, is — amidst apparent fortitude — still forlorn, all alone, and pining for home from distant Wirongunan prison, a victim not only of unscrupulous drug and human traffickers but also of circumstance.
She is just waiting. But until when shall she wait?
But the legal process in the Philippines where she pins her sliver of hope has presented challenges that must be surmounted incessantly.
The case is now past the pre-trial wrangling and is now on a momentum after a year. But the legal process as a whole and in general, like in almost all cases in the Philippines, is characteristically tedious, complicated, cumbersome, and protracted.
Multiple motions, extended arguments and denials of matters of public knowledge, borne by intense legalistic tactics from the accused illegal recruiters that, wittingly or unwittingly, puts premium on overdue process, have the effect of delaying resolution of the case, and deviate from the substance and merits, need to be traversed and resolved over time.
On the ground, there is also the frustrating practical difficulty in having continuous trials in a remote venue due to conflict of schedules in the court calendar and counsels’ competing professional commitments.
And the mode and details on how and when Mary Jane will fully tell her story in the legally permissible and most practicable way remain outstanding.
Whether the final solution will be provided by vindication through the legal process or by magnanimity via the political mode, or both, the sense of urgency must infect us all. The clock continues to tick. Time is of the very essence. So we keep on pounding and knocking to give Mary Jane justice.
But we ask those who aspire to lead this nation of poor, exploited and distressed migrant workers and their families who prop up the economy:
Beyond the rhetoric and palliative promises, how do you concretely address both the root causes and the immediate needs of forced migration?
What is in store after the elections for the likes of Mary Jane? Have they been forgotten amidst the din of the electoral circus and vicious mudslinging? Where does that leave her?
Or have we forgotten the horrific pain and lessons of the execution island in Nusakambangan? Have the images become foggy for many?
We dread to relive the days of frenzy and nights of despair. We do not want to be compelled to profoundly apologize for failing Mary Jane, her family and all migrant workers for not bringing Darren and Darryl’s mom back home alive.
After 6 years, Let’s bring her back home already.
Note: Mary Jane Veloso’s Philippine private counsel from the NUPL are: Edre U. Olalia, Ephraim Cortez, Ma. Cristina Yambot-Tanseco, Minerva Lopez, and Josalee Deinla