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Indonesia: In jail and death row, Mary Jane Veloso keeps herself busy

Filipina death row inmate Mary Jane Veloso
Filipina death row inmate Mary Jane Veloso
Filipina in Indonesian gallows for drug charges in positive disposition, even manages to work for her family

Filipina death row inmate Mary Jane Veloso remains calm and completely in control of her behavior and emotions despite being in prison for almost 7 years, according to an official of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

She even managed to provide for her family in Nueva Ecija.

During a visit to the Wirogunan prison in Indonesia last November 10 - 11, DSWD assistant secretary Aleli Bawagan personally checked on Veloso, who has been jailed in Indonesia for drug trafficking since 2010.

Bawagan said she washed clothes of her fellow inmates and sells some of her batik and crochet creations to earn money that she sends to her family. She also sent a portion of the $2,000 donated to her by then-congressman Manny Pacquiao in 2015 for her sibling's medication.

Bawagan also personally handed Veloso a letter from DSWD secretary Judy Taguiwalo, but did not disclose the content of the message.

"We did not wait long before Mary Jane came. Nagmano siya sa lahat nang nandoon. We were introduced. Because the prosecutor still had another meeting to attend to, we discussed first the status of the case of Mary Jane," Bawagan said.

Unprecedented stay of execution

Prosecutor Ibu Sri Aggraeni told the DSWD official they are just waiting for the results of the illegal recruitment and human trafficking cases against the recruiters of Veloso.

"They are not doing anything (yet) here in Indonesia since Mary Jane has been meted the death penalty. I asked if there is a deadline for the stay of execution based on past experiences. She said that this is the first case of a stay of execution in Indonesia (thus there is no precedent case)," Bawagan said.

She noted that Aggraeni said they are also waiting for the deposition of Veloso to be done in Indonesia.

"She knows that this has been ordered by the Philippine court although they do not know when this will be held. This will be a good opportunity for Mary Jane to testify in front of the court," Bawagan added.

Special requests

Veloso also received Philippine native foods like dried mangoes and peanuts, as well as a letter from her family.

In her family's letter, they expressed plans of visiting Veloso in December or January, in time for her 31st birthday.

Bawagan said Veloso requested the official to give her letters to Taguiwalo and to Veloso's family in Nueva Ecija. She also asked for rubber shoes so she can play volleyball again, as well as some toiletries and underwear.

Veloso also asked if it was possible for DSWD to defray the airfare of her sister, who she had not seen in a long time. Bawagan assured Veloso that this request will be discussed with Taguiwalo.

Keeping herself busy

"We talked about her daily life in prison. They are eight women in one room. They wake up around 5:00 a.m., clean their room, take a bath, and then have breakfast. They then spend time midday and afternoon to learn batik-making. She sometimes gives her batik products as gifts to her visitors. Sometimes, they play volleyball," Bawagan shared.

"We had the chance to talk with her housemother, Ibu Corniase or Ibu Ase. She said that Mary Jane has good relations with many inmates," Bawagan furthered. "She also said that Mary Jane is able to provide hope to other inmates. She tries to be always positive."

Before they left, Bawagan said Veloso had her medical check-up because she has "high cholesterol and sometimes feels numbness in her arms."

Positive disposition

"My impression of Mary Jane is she is in command of herself. I initially thought that she might be depressed after being imprisoned for almost seven years now. She is always smiling and is able to provide positive energy to other inmates. She is also focused on her family."

"She has suitors but she does not want to have a relationship while in prison. She is also focused on learning new skills to keep her active. She has learned to speak and read Bahasa Indonesia. Of course she is hurting, but the regular talks with a priest and a seminarian help her. At this moment, she only wants justice for her case and to be with her family," Bawagan said.

Veloso, a Filipino worker, was convicted of drug smuggling in Indonesia and has been sentenced to death in 2010. She was supposed to be executed last year, but was given a stay of execution amid government appeals and the surrender of her alleged recruiter who duped her into bringing drugs to Indonesia.

Last September, President Rodrigo Duterte met Indonesian president Joko Widodo, but he reportedly did not raise the case of Veloso.

Duterte, however, mentioned he will "respect the judgment of your court," which the Jakarta Post interpreted as a go signal, leaving the Veloso family in shock.

Source: Manila Bulletin, November 17, 2016

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