The family of a Filipina on death row with Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in Indonesia has made a tearful appeal for her life, insisting that an international drug syndicate duped the single mother of two.
Mary Jane Veloso, 30, has been in an Indonesian jail for five years after being caught at Yogyakarta airport with 2.6 kilograms of heroin, and is among a batch of foreigners facing imminent execution.
But her parents and sister said a crime syndicate involving a friend had deceived her, and she did not know the drugs had been sown into her suitcase before flying from Malaysia.
‘Please don’t kill my sister. She is innocent. If you kill her, you will have blood on your hands,’ Veloso’s elder sister Marites Veloso-Laurente said in a plea to Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
Jakarta is waiting on the appeal efforts of Veloso and a few other prisoners before setting an execution date for the entire group of 10 prisoners, including Chan and Sukumaran.
With tears streaming down his cheeks, Veloso’s father said the syndicate that used her as an unwitting drug mule had pledged to kill all family members if they reported the racket to authorities or went to the media.
‘Life’s been hard. We’ve been living in fear. My daughter’s recruiters have been threatening us… they threatened to kill us one by one,’ said 59-year-old Cesar Veloso.
The family is from a poor farming town about three hours’ drive north of Manila, and Veloso had sought to provide for her two young sons by working as a maid overseas.
The single mother initially worked for nine months in Dubai in 2009 but was forced to come home after her employer tried to rape her, according to her father.
A family friend then offered Veloso work as a maid in Malaysia.
When Veloso got to Malaysia she was told the job was no longer available but there was another one in Indonesia if she flew there immediately, according to her parents.
‘My sister’s a loving person, she’s so kind. But she trusts too much. We don’t engage in vices or anything illegal, no cigarettes, no alcohol,’ her elder sister said.
When Veloso was arrested, her sons were aged just one and seven and they too have become victims.
‘It’s as if they lost all hope… they are worried about what would happen to them if their mother never came back,’ the Veloso matriarch, Celia, said as her two grandsons sat quietly next to her.
She said the eldest son, Mark Daniel Candelaria, 12, was struggling at school and may have to repeat eighth grade.
Veloso’s youngest, Mark Darren, 6, copes by singing his mother’s favourite song, a Filipino ballad called Just wait, which has become an anthem of hope for the family.
Veloso’s mother, 55, insisted that if her daughter was involved in the drug trade, her family would have seen some benefits of it.
‘We beg you, Mr Indonesian president, if my daughter was involved in drugs, we wouldn’t be this poor,’ she said.
The Indonesian Supreme Court last week denied Veloso’s request to review her conviction.
The Philippine government said Wednesday it would file a second appeal.
Veloso’s parents and sons also visited the Indonesian embassy in Manila on Wednesday to lodge a letter appealing to Widodo for mercy.