For Filipino bishop, Mary Jane Veloso is innocent; those who took advantage of her should be punished
The Filipino woman is in jail in Indonesia, convicted of drug trafficking. The death sentence still hangs over her. The president of the Episcopal Commission for the care of migrants told AsiaNews, “They used her, and robbed her of her innocence.” The Church will pray for her and protect her children. “We hope and we are convinced that Mary Jane will be spared the death sentence.”

Balanga (AsiaNews) – Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso "is an involuntary victim of human trafficking. They used her, and robbed her of her innocence. Those who accused her without evidence should be prosecuted,” said Mgr Ruperto Cruz Santos DD, bishop of Balanga and president of the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care for Migrants and Itinerant People.

The prelate spoke to AsiaNews about the latest developments in the case of Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, a Filipino woman sentenced to death in Indonesia for drug trafficking.

A mother of two, the migrant worker was arrested at Yogyakarta airport in April of 2010 with 2.6 kg of heroin in her suitcase.

Her execution was set for last April but following the arrest of Maria Kristina Sergio, the woman who recruited her, she received a stay of execution. According to Filipino authorities, the latter tricked Ms Veloso into carrying drugs without her knowledge.

“Maria Kristina Sergio, the recruiter, and her partner, Julius Lacanilao, are under investigation by the Justice Department,” the bishop said. “This is a good.”

“Our mission as the Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, through the Commission for Migrants, is to continue to pray for Mary Jane and protect her children. We continue to pray that justice is done and Mary Jane’s innocence is finally proven."

"The Church, especially the diocese of Cabanatuan* is helping Ms Veloso’s family,” Bishop Santos said. “We are supporting her children’s education through a programme for jailed Overseas Filipino Workers."

The situation of Filipino migrant workers (about 10 million) is often tragic, Mgr Santos noted. “We call on Filipino government to create new jobs here, so that people are no longer forced to try their luck elsewhere."

"We hope and we are convinced that Mary Jane will be spared the death sentence,” the prelate added. “We will always help and assist her family."

In recent weeks, major Filipino government officials and community figures have expressed their solidarity with Mary Jane Veloso.

A few days ago, a delegation from the Filipino Department of Foreign Affairs visited her in prison in Yogyakarta, and met a top local official with the Indonesian Ministry of Law and Human Rights.

The Indonesian Ministry’s reaction was cool to meeting, calling the visit to Ms Veloso a courtesy call, nothing more.

"We also hope that the ongoing legal process in the Philippines which aims to prove Veloso's innocence is performed objectively as we have done in Indonesia," said Tony Spontana, spokesman for Indonesia’s Attorney General Office after the meeting between his Office and the Filipino delegation.

*Mary Jane Veloso is originally from Caudillo, Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija.