Above: 30 Year-old widowed Filipina mother of two another exploited S-E Asian domestic maid
Spare a thought for Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso a 30 year-old Filipina widowed mother of two, who is scheduled to be shot by an Indonesian firing squad along with the two Australians we have all heard about.
It is not hard to find articles about Chan and Sulumaran but you have to spend a bit of time to find out about this young Filipina and if you can get all worked up about the execution of the two Aussies, spare a thought for this young woman.
This is an excerpt from www.rappler.com a Philippines news website:
Veloso, who comes from a poor family in Bulacan, north of Manila, only finished high school. She was in Malaysia supposedly to work as a domestic helper, but her would-be employer failed to meet her, the court heard on Tuesday. With two children back home, she agreed to an offer by foreigners to bring two suitcases to Indonesia.
I know more than a few cynical Aussies who would say: “Yeah, O.K. I’ve heard that one before”. But as I write this I am sitting in a village in Isan, in the north east of Thailand up near the Laos border. I know a family here, a 40 year-old widowed mother of two. Her husband took six years to slowly die of colon cancer. There is no Carer’s Pension, no Disability Support Pension, no Newstart; nothing. To care for her dying husband she had to give up work, mortgage their home, mortgage her mother’s farm and mortgage her father-in-law’s farm. She was distraught; she didn’t want him to die but the longer he lived, the further her family sank into poverty. When he died she was left with a debt of $40,000 (AUD), not a great debt for a house and two rice fields by Australian standards but a one million Baht debt in Thai money that she will never pay off in her lifetime.
Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso left her children to look for work in Malaysia as a “domestic helper”. She wasn’t looking to make her fortune, but like the Isan widow, she was just trying to survive. And could she be so naïve as not to know there were drugs in those bags? Well, yes. Poor simple country folk in South East Asia can be that naïve, believe me, I see it here every day.
When she faced court in Indonesia, on trial for her life, she could only speak Tagalog; no Indonesian and no English. She was given an interpreter, an unaccredited student. It was on this basis that lawyers later lodged her appeal. She lost, with the Indonesian prosecutor saying: “There are no rules about the interpreter having to meet certain qualifications.” Note the “lawyerspeak”: “there are no rules” . I know this language, I worked with it for twenty years. He is not saying a person doesn’t need a competent interpreter when they are on trial for their life, he is saying: because the rules don’t say we have to give you one, we won’t. This is cruel, amoral semantics at the expense of a human life.
Allegations of judicial corruption have been raised in the cases of Chan and Sukumaran, albeit a bit late in the day. But poor Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso never had a chance from the first day of her trial and the prosecutors knew it. We should be critical of Indonesia’s so-called criminal “justice” system, but put national sympathies aside for a moment. Put aside the “Aussie” element and spare a thought for Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso.
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop has called upon Indonesia “to show the same mercy to the condemned Bali Nine pair as it is pursuing for Indonesian drug felons facing execution overseas”. But the Indonesian government doesn’t just lobby for it’s citizens who are convicted drug felons facing execution overseas. When an Indonesian maid was executed in Saudi Arabia after she allegedly confessed to killing the employer who had abused her, Indonesia banned it’s citizens from travelling overseas seeking employment as domestic maids. The exploitation of Asian women working overseas as maids is very well known in Indonesia, so much so that they are trying to stop it. To put a Filipina maid on trial for her life without a competent interpreter, knowing how she got caught up in and exploited by the drug trade, and then deny her appeal and stand her in front of a firing squad is the absolute height of hypocrisy. Bishop’s plea for Chan and Sukumaran pales in comparison.
And here’s the rub: there is no Philippine Freign Affairs minister making representations to the Indonesian government they are not going to “intervene”. Spare a thought for Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso.