Multisectoral progressive organizations staged a protest in front of the Court of Appeals (CA) in Manila on January 25 to push the appellate court to reverse its decision that effectively bars Mary Jane Veloso from testifying against her traffickers and weakens her chance of being saved from the death row in Indonesia.

In line with the “Global Day of Action” in support of Mary Jane, youth group Anakbayan assailed the CA ruling, saying that it is unconscionable and a clear act of injustice, and called on the Duterte government to double its efforts to free Mary Jane and rescind the extant labor export policy.

“Mary Jane’s recruiters have already upheld her innocence so it is clear injustice to block her from defending herself. It is a matter of life and death for Mary Jane but the Philippine government has once again failed her,” said Einstein Recedes, Anakbayan national secretary general.

On December 13, 2017, the CA issued the decision barring Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Court Judge Anarica Castillo-Reyes from taking Mary Jane’s testimony against her illegal recruiters Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao. Sergio and Lacanilao earlier filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition and argued that allowing the judge to do so violates their constitutional right to confront their accuser.

Mary Jane, who is in death row since 2010, was apprehended by Indonesian authorities for unwittingly carrying a suitcase lined with heroin given by Sergio, who duped her of a non-existent job opportunity in Malaysia, and subsequently, in Indonesia. Following international support for Mary Jane and pressure on the Indonesian government, she was given a temporary reprieve just hours before her scheduled execution on April 29, 2015, to give way for the proceedings of her case against the illegal recruiters.

Labor export policy must be junked

“As we fervently call for Mary Jane’s freedom, we also strongly urge the Duterte government to discontinue the labor export policy that has pushed millions of Filipinos like Mary Jane to seek employment opportunities and greener pastures abroad,” Recedes said.

Instead of creating job opportunities in the country, he underscored that previous administrations and the current Duterte regime resorted to labor export as a solution to the massive unemployment and underemployment problem and heavily relied on the remittances of overseas Filipino workers to spur the economy.

“Under the labor export policy, the country churns out mostly cheap and docile Filipino laborers who are at a great risk of exploitation. Until the government institutes fundamental changes in the economy, more Filipinos will be victimized and forced into desperation to escape poverty,” he added.

However, Recedes noted that there is no prospect of Duterte abandoning the labor export policy because it serves the interest of his imperialist masters for cheap labor to sustain their economic activities.

“We call on the Filipino youth to continue the fight for saving Mary Jane and many other Filipinos in different countries from death row. They must be afforded all legal, financial, and political assistance by the government to facilitate their freedom. But more so, the youth must fervently oppose the Duterte regime’s neoliberal economic policies such as the labor export policy and contractualization that pushed Filipinos into forced migration. Ultimately, the youth must fight for an economy free of foreign intervention and advocate for genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization that will ensure sufficient and sustainable jobs for the welfare of the people,” Recedes ended. #


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