Migrant group urges PH gov’t to act on cases of migrant workers on death row 

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Migrante International appealed to the government to look into the cases of Filipino migrant workers who are on death row in foreign countries.

Joanna Concepcion, chairperson of the group, said some Filipino migrant workers who are sentenced to death “could be likened to the case of Mary Jane Veloso.”

“We need to be sure that these Filipino migrant workers are not victims of human trafficking like Mary Jane who did not know that she’s carrying prohibited drugs when she was brought in Indonesia,” said Concepcion.

Veloso was arrested in April 2010 for allegedly smuggling 2.6 kilos of heroin into Indonesia. She maintained that she was unaware of the contraband and was a victim of human trafficking.

The Indonesian government granted her a stay of execution in April 2015 to allow her to testify against her recruiters.

Last week, acting foreign affairs undersecretary Jose de Vega said the Philippine government has “asked Indonesia to hold any execution because we are trying to show that she was a victim, not a perpetrator.”

On Sept. 4, the Philippine government through foreign affairs secretary Enrique Manalo formally asked for clemency for Veloso.

Manalo met with Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi in one of the sidelines of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s inaugural state visit to the country.

In a separate statement, Migrante International said the effort of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) “is a significant development and brings renewed hope in our movement to #BringMaryJaneHome.”

But the group also expressed disappointment, saying that President Marcos Jr. should have been the one to raise the appeal “to his counterpart as one of the priority issues.”

“This would have had a stronger impact. Instead, the President seemed to downgrade the issue by leaving it up to the DFA to address on the sidelines,” the statement read.

Migrante International vowed to remain steadfast in the campaign to save Veloso from the death row and bring her home and “to seek justice for all victims of human trafficking.”

As of 2021, there are at least 62 Filipino migrants who are on death row in foreign land, according to the DFA.

Some 49 cases are in Malaysia while 14 are in Saudi Arabia. The rest are in the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Brunei, China, Indonesia, and the United States.

Half of the total cases are for the charge of murder of a local, foreign national, or fellow Filipino, in which 94 percent are men.

About 37 percent are cases of drug smuggling and trafficking, which took place mainly in Malaysia. Some 52 percent of these cases involve Filipino women.

Concepcion said the Philippine government has an opportunity “to save the lives of migrant workers if it will look at them as victims instead of offenders.”

“There is a great possibility that many of these migrant workers have only fallen into a trap, which is systematically perpetuated by human traffickers. It is high time for the Philippines to address the multiple crises that surround the issue of forced migration of Filipino workers,” she said.

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