MANILA (DWDD) – From November 9-11 2016, DSWD Assistant Secretary for the Office of the Secretary (OSEC Group) Aleli B. Bawagan visited Mary Jane Veloso in Wirogun Prison in Indonesia to personally check on her condition in prison. She was also asked to personally hand Secretary Taguiwalo’s letter to Mary Jane Veloso.
Before the visit in Indonesia, Asec. Bawagan was a speaker at the 3rd Asia Pacific High-Level Meeting on Child Rights in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
This is Asec. Bawagan’s report to Sec. Taguiwalo on her visit to Mary Jane Veloso in Jogjakarta, Indonesia, November 9-11, 2016.
On Nov. 9, 2016, Mr. Antonio Villar and Mr. Selbino Roberto Florencio Sambajon (Pak Robi) of the Philippine Embassy in Jakarta and I met at the Jakarta airport. We traveled together to Jogjakarta. Pak Robi, the staff assigned to assist Filipino nationals in Indonesia, was born in Indonesia to a Filipino father and Indonesian/Dutch mother. He has worked at the Philippine Embassy for a long time. He retired in March 2010, but was asked to work again under ‘Contract of Service’ status. Mr. Villar is the administrative officer of the Philippine Embassy and is visiting Mary Jane for the first time. Pak Robi briefed me and Mr. Antonio on the status of the case of Mary Jane Veloso. He likewise said that he has made arrangements with the prosecutor and the lawyer regarding this visit. Pak Robi said that visiting hours are only in the morning, from 9am – 12nn.
By Nov. 10, 2016, we were already at the Wirogunan prison by 8:45am. We still had to wait for the prosecution team, led by the prosecutor Sri Aggraeni, and Mr. Agus Salim, the lawyer, before we could see Mary Jane. We were finally able to enter the prison by 9:45am. We left our bags in a locker. We were led to a room near the prison offices, not to the usual visiting area of other inmates. This is the only place where Mary Jane can meet her visitor.
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 this morning, we discussed first the status of the case of Mary Jane. Ibu Sri Aggraeni said that they are just waiting for the results of the case of illegal recruitment and human trafficking versus Ma. Cristina P. Sergio and Julius Lacanilao filed in the Philippines. They are not doing anything 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.
She also shared about their experience in Nusa Kambangan, the island where execution of convicted prisoners are done. Mary Jane was supposed to be fourth to be executed among nine prisoners on that day of April 29, 2015. But she was moved to the last. Forty minutes before she was to be executed, the prosecutor received a call from the Attorney General’s Office and ordered for a stay of the execution. They were very happy with the decision. When they left the island, they rode on the same boat that carried the bodies of the other eight who were executed.
Ibu Sri Aggraeni said that they are also waiting for the deposition of Mary Jane to be done here 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.
Mary Jane also shared her story of how she joined Cristina to Malaysia and was later sent to Indonesia. I then shared with her the report from NUPL about her case. Since this was in English, I had to translate to her in Filipino. In our conversation, Mary Jane would speak more in Indonesian than Filipino. She would ask Pak Robi to translate to English. I also read to her the DSWD report of various forms of support given to her family since May 2015.
I then gave her the dried mangoes and peanuts from the Philippines. I also handed the letter from Sec Taguiwalo and from her family. Based on the letter, she said that her family (her parents and two children) plans to visit her in December or in January, during her birthday. There is someone who will pay for their airfare. She also shared that Pacquiao visited and gave her USD 2,000.
Even if she is in prison, she is still able to send money to her family. From what Pacquiao gave to her, she sent a portion for the medical expenses of her sibling. She also washes clothes of other inmates and sells some of her batik and crochet so she can get some cash which she also sends to her family. She said that the last time she talked with her family was on Oct. 25, the birthday of her youngest child who turned seven. He was just a baby when she left for Malaysia. She also asked me to send a letter to her family and to Sec. Judy.
I asked Mary Jane what she needed. She asked for rubber shoes so she can play volleyball again. She also asked for some toiletries and underwear.
We had lunch with Mary Jane. One of her favorites is Makanan Padang. She has also learned to love durian. In fact, she asked for durian when she was in the execution island. After lunch, we left and promised to return the next day.
In the afternoon, I spent some time to shop for the items Mary Jane needed.
By Nov. 11, 2016, we were able to have a chat with Mary Jane for around two hours this morning. She asked me to give a crochet bag to Sec Judy. She made the crochet material for the bag, although she asked someone to sew the lining. She also gave two pictures for her family. She also asked if it was possible for DSWD to support the airfare of her sister whom she has not seen a long time. Her sister wants to join her family who plans to visit her. I said that I will bring this up with the Secretary.
We talked about her daily life in prison. They are eight women in one room. They wake up around 5am, 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.
She was happy with the rubber shoes and other personal items that we brought to her. I also shared with her that a hearing on the illegal recruitment case was held yesterday in the Philippines. Her husband testified in this hearing. I also told her that the Court already ordered for the deposition to be done in Indonesia.
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. There are other inmates who have been released and want to visit Mary Jane, unfortunately, since Mary Jane is in death row, she can only accept official visitors. She also said that Mary Jane is able to provide hope to other inmates. She tries to be always positive. Ibu Ase was also with Mary Jane in the execution island.
Mary Jane read to us an Indonesian poem which is close to her heart. This is entitled ‘Tunggu’ or ‘Wait’. Pak Robi translated the poem to us, which talks about a conversation between the poet and God and talks about waiting.
An Indonesian Jesuit seminarian soon arrived by 11am. He visits Mary Jane every Friday and converse with her for half an hour to one hour.
Before we left, Pak Robi said that the embassy will assist her for her medical check-up. She has high cholesterol and sometimes feels numbness in her arms.
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 was arrested April 25, 2010 for having 2.6 kgs of heroin in her possession; sentenced to death penalty on October 11, 2010; stay of execution on April 29, 2015). 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. SMS DSWD / MCAG