Mary Jane Veloso, a 30-year-old Filipino woman convicted of alleged drug trafficking, has been transferred to a detention center on Indonesia’s Nusakambangan Island, where she awaits execution by firing squad pending an appeal process.

“Mary Jane’s lawyers were planning to submit an appeal on Monday [April 27] based on new evidence, specifically that she was a victim of human trafficking. They hurriedly submitted their appeal, a mere 10 minutes before the courts closed on Friday [April 24],” says Rebecca Lawson, a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-worker in the Philippines. “This appeal could help, if only there is enough time.”

Veloso described her journey from domestic worker to death row in a handwritten statement transcribed by her sister and posted on the website of human rights advocacy group Migrante International. Migrante International is active in human rights advocacy efforts in the Philippines, particularly those related to human trafficking and inhumane migration.

In the statement, Veloso says a neighbor and family friend in the Philippines asked if she would like to work as a domestic servant in Malaysia/Kuala Lumpur. Veloso says she told her friend she would like the work, but that she didn’t have money for transportation. According to the statement, the friend offered to pay for Veloso’s airplane ticket in exchange for two months’ salary once Veloso started her new job.

The statement also says the brother of the friend’s boyfriend gave Veloso a suitcase, which she carried with her to Indonesia. Veloso’s statement says she had no knowledge drugs were in the suitcase. The drugs were discovered in the lining of the suitcase by airport security staff.

“My heart breaks as I listen to Mary Jane's parents, sons, and, most recently, her brother explain the story of what happened to Mary Jane,” Lawson says. “They were afraid to seek help, because the drug syndicate, through the recruiter who was a family friend, had said they would be killed, one by one, if they went to the media. Their family lives in poverty and didn't know what to do to help Mary Jane. They had never heard of the concept of human trafficking, but they knew well that Mary Jane had been fooled and used."

“This may be the eleventh hour, but we keep hope that we can make a difference for Mary Jane and her family,” Lawson says. “The Filipino lawyers informed us that there is a law on the books in Indonesia saying that a trafficked person is not criminally liable for acts committed when being trafficked.”

“The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) appeals to the Indonesian government to stop the execution of Mary Jane Veloso," says the Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) General Assembly. " The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has opposed the death penalty for over fifty years. The Presbyterian Church further calls the Indonesian government to honor the appeal for a second judicial review for Mary Jane. Should this review determine she is a victim of human trafficking, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) calls upon the Indonesian government to fulfill its obligations under the Palermo Protocol. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) calls the government of the Philippines to exert all efforts to save Mary Jane Veloso."

An urgent faith-based advocacy effort asks church leaders to sign a petition launched by Promotion of Church Peoples’ Response (PCPR) in the Philippines. The petition asks for clemency and pardon for Mary Jane Veloso, whom many believe to be a victim of human trafficking instead of a drug smuggler. PC(USA) has signed the petition, as has the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.  

The 72-hour notice for execution of Mary Jane Veloso was issued on Saturday, April 25.

“Article 6 of the Palermo Protocol calls on states ‘to provide for the physical safety of victims of trafficking in persons while they are within its territory.’ As a victim of human trafficking, Mary Jane Veloso should be afforded state protections, including that of her life,” says Ryan D. Smith, Presbyterian Representative to the United Nations.

Veloso’s family has traveled from the Philippines to Indonesia hoping to see her, for what may be their final visit. However, since she has been transferred to the island where the execution is to take place, they may not get to visit with her.