Dubai OFWs: Filipinos must learn from Mary Jane Veloso

DUBAI, UAE – Mary Jane Veloso's case has caused a stir among Filipinos in the United Arab Emirates, who are hoping that the investigation into the case of her alleged recruiter Maria Cristina Sergio will save Veloso from the Indonesian death row.

The 30-year-old Veloso, a mother of two, is an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) charged with the death penalty in Indonesia after being convicted of drug trafficking.

She was set to be executed by firing squad last April 29, but Indonesian authorities delayed Veloso’s execution in order to allow her to testify against her alleged human traffickers. (READ: Reprieve allows Mary Jane Veloso to testify)

It isn't a surprise that many Filipinos working in Dubai can relate to Veloso's pain. Prior to Veloso’s arrest in Indonesia, she was herself a domestic worker in Dubai. Here, according to her own account, her employer attempted to rape her.

Relief, joy

OFWs in Dubai were relieved over Indonesia's decision to grant a last-minute stay in Veloso’s execution, expressing hope her testimony against her alleged trafficker would lead to the arrest of those running the drug syndicate.

“I am overjoyed that she got a stay,” said Mishael Doce, a travel and tours agency worker living in Al Nada. “Now, we have a chance to know what really happened and who were behind it.”

Josephine Nagutam of Al Rigga and an HR and account-in-charge at a software company, said that while she’s happy Veloso got a reprieve, she remains hopeful that the incident would serve as a lesson to OFWs.

“We need to follow the rules of the host country. It’s nothing different from a guest observing house rules of his or her host. Imagine that guest bringing drugs into the home of his or her host. Of course, consequences would be dire,” she said.

Corie Belinggan, who works as content coordinator for a public relations firm, said, “If anything, this incident tells us not to be so gullible as to easily trust anybody because it could land us in jail.”

Bella Navida of Bur Dubai said she prays the execution does not push through for good. "We Filipinos are honest people. Instead I wish that those behind this drug trafficking syndicate victimizing vulnerable people like Mary Jane are arrested and be brought to justice."

Jen Rey from the Deira neighborhood in Dubai said she’s thankful the execution was postponed pending further investigation. “She’s still our kababayan no matter what. I just hope the investigation goes well,” she said.

Karen Santoalla, also from Deira, said she hopes Veloso gets a lighter sentence. “Her case is a lesson for us to thoroughly check packages that people ask us to carry for them,” she said.

Mother’s remarks

While the OFWs were happy with the stay, a lot of them also took issue with the remarks made by Veloso’s mother, Celia, who lambasted the Philippine government for its alleged slow action on the case of her daughter. (READ: Mary Jane Veloso's family to Aquino: 'Taumbayan ang tumulong'

Ada Teodoro, a public relations practitioner from Ajman, said: “The PR approach by her mother was wrong. She shouldn’t have attacked the government; she should have instead made constructive statements.”

‘Legal channels’

Lawyer Ophelia Almenario, the Philippine mission’s labor attaché to Abu Dhabi, said the incident highlights how important it is for Filipinos planning to work abroad to stick to legal channels. By doing so, the government can act immediately should they run into problems.

“Take the legal means. Go to agencies accredited by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). It is very difficult to be working overseas without protection,” she said.

“The government goes after these agencies, should a problem arise with the Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW),” she said.

She added that the government often faces a blank wall in cases involving human traffickers and illegal recruiters because they often go into hiding until after the matter has died down.

Authorities arrested Veloso on April 25, 2010, upon her arrival at the Adisucipto International Airport in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, for alleged possession of 2.6 kilograms of heroin. She maintains her innocence. –