Filipino bishop calls Mary Jane an iconic figure for migrants, urges authorities to stop workers from leaving
The chairman of the Commission on Migrants told AsiaNews that he is happy for her reprieve. He urges the authorities to act and traffickers to stop. The prisoner left ‘execution’ island for Yogyakarta. Her alleged recruiter, Maria Kristina Sergio, turned herself in to the authorities who now can investigate.

Manila (AsiaNews) – Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, the woman on death row who received a stay of execution, is “an iconic figure who represents Filipino migrants,” said Mgr Ruperto Santos, bishop of Balanga and chairman of the Commission on Migrants of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

“We have prayed constantly for her,” he explained, “because we believe in the power of God and His mercy. However, the Filipino government needs to improve the [country’s] economic situation and create jobs, so that stories like hers are not repeated.” Mary Jane “was looking for a better future for herself and her family, and she almost died”. Now, “We need political action."

In her case, new evidence has emerged, which led to her reprieve. “The stay was granted based on our request for Mary Jane [. . .] to testify in connection with the cases filed against the recruiter, Maria Kristina Sergio,” Foreign Affairs spokesperson Charles Jose. In fact, the death row inmate is now a state witness and a complainant against her alleged recruiter.

The latter has rejected the charges against her but decided to turn herself in, claiming that she had been receiving death threats. For Jose, “the surrender of Sergio played a big part (in Veloso’s reprieve)”. Now the case can be further elucidated.

In light of the new situation, Veloso left Kambangan Island (Nusa Kambangan), also known as ‘execution island,’ and went back to her cell in Wirogunan Prison in Yogyakarta, where Foreign Affairs plans to arrange for her family to visit her.

Whatever happens to her, for Mgr Santos, Mary Jane “is a mother who wanted a better life for her children, a woman who was forced to leave everything behind to seek work. Consequently, we call on the government to promote employment policies that provide decent wages to Filipinos. We need stable jobs here at home, to beat the scourge of forced migration that separates so many families. "

The prelate also made an appeal to migrants. "Be careful and open-minded,” he told them. “Avoid things you know are wrong, like drugs. Do not fall into the hands of recruiters.”

Addressing the latter directly, the bishop “ask[ed] them to stop and reflect on what you are doing. You are creating innocent victims. Repent and come back to the path of righteousness."