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How a former Dubai expat lands on death row in Indonesia

One of 9 convicts sentenced to death in Indonesia used to work in Dubai as housemaid; read her full
story here

By NoelGRSr

Image Credit: Reuters
Officers take Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso (C) of the Philippines, to her first judicial review trial in the District Court of Sleman inYogyakarta in this March 3, 2015 file photo.

Dubai: Nine convicted drug smugglers, including an Indonesian, two Australians, four Nigerians, a Brazilian and a Filipino were scheduled for firing squad execution in Indonesia on April 28. All of them have been killed but one: Mary Jane Veloso.

The woman who was spared at the last minute has been in the news since word of her impending execution for smuggling more than two kilos of heroin began to spread. Her case has caused a public outcry in the Philippines because of claims that she is innocent.

Who is Mary Jane and how did she end up in death row?

Mary Jane, 30, is a mother of two children, aged six and 12, and comes from a poor family in the Philippines.

The youngest among five children, Mary Jane and her family had to collect plastics and other recyclable materials just to get by because her father's pay as a seasonal worker at a farm in Hacienda Luisita was not enough.

Mary Jane eventually dropped out of high school, married young but later left her husband, and raised two children on her own.

Desperate to get her family out of extreme poverty, Mary Jane was forced to leave her home country about five years ago, after she raised enough money to pay for her trip.

She flew to Dubai in 2009 and got hired as a housemaid.

She worked for ten months in the emirate, but before her two-year contract ended, she decided to pack her things because someone allegedly tried to rape her.

She went back home but did not give up on her dream to work overseas. Her son was already going to school and she did not have any money left to pay for the expenses.

“How many times I go to the Manila in agency I try to apply again as a servant take to another country, but almost 3 months the agency not contact me,” Mary Jane tells her story in her own words in one of the letters she wrote from prison.

On April 2010, a friend and daughter of one of her godparents, Ma. Cristina Sergio, offered her the opportunity to work in another country. She was told that a Malaysian national was looking for a domestic help.

Mary Jane jumped at the offer and in exchange, she paid Cristina 20,000 pesos (nearly Dh2,000 dirhams), a motorcycle and a mobile phone. "She was illegally recruited," according to Migrante International, a group assisting her on her case. Migrante has recently posted details of Mary Jane's case on its website.

Not too long after, on April 22, the two arrived in Malaysia. Cristina then told Mary Jane that the job had already been filled, but she promised that another position would open up.

Mary Jane decided to stay for another three days, but since she had only two shirts and two pairs of pants in her backpack, Cristina offered to buy her clothes and other personal items.

On April 25, Cristina told Mary Jane that she had to travel to Indonesia for work. "At first, she was hesitant since she did not have money for the ticket. Cristina told her that she did not have to worry," Migrante recalls.

Cristina later introduced Mary Jane to her boyfriend named Prince and another guy she referred to as I.k.

“Then I.k ask me… you are Mary Jane, my brother said you need a bag so I buy for you and I said thank you,” she wrote.

“I and [Cristina] come back to the hotel and [Cristina] bring the bag… When we are inside the room I hold the bag but I ask [Cristina] why the bag little heavy but she said because it’s new… I check all zipper and pocket of the bag… all empty so I don’t have thinking negative.”

Cristina gave Mary Jane $500 pocket money. When she arrived at the airport in Indonesia and passed through the x-ray machine, the airport personnel stopped her and asked to check her bag.

They did not find anything suspicious even after they removed all the contents in the bag. They scanned it for the second time and the machine again detected something, prompting the staff to tear the luggage apart. It was then when they found out that 2.6 kilos of heroin had been stuffed neatly in the inner part of the bag.

Mary Jane swore she had no idea that some heroin was placed in her luggage. She was convicted in October 2010, but her story only surfaced recently.

Several groups have pleaded for the Indonesian government to recall Mary Jane's penalty because she is a victim in this case.

Reports have it that Mary Jane's recruiter, Cristina, surrendered to the authorities in the Philippines just a few hours before her execution.

Country in Focus



POPULATION:96.71 million (WB, 2012)
LANGUAGES:English, Filipino (based mostly in Tagalog), regional languages
HEAD OF STATE:President Benigno Aquino III

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