Mary Jane Veloso: Job search ends in death row

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Mary Jane Veloso (right) cheers up her mother Celia (left) when she was visited by her family in prison in 2013.

(CNN Philippines) — Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, a 30-year-old mother of two, has been in the news for her impending execution by firing squad on April 28 for smuggling 2.6 kilograms of heroin into Indonesia.

Who is Mary Jane?

Migrante International, the lead agency helping her in her case, posted in its website details about Veloso's life before she was arrested and the progress of her case.

Veloso was born to a poor family in Brgy. Caudillo, Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, with her father, Cesar Veloso, being a seasonal worker in Hacienda Luisita.

The youngest of five children of Cesar and Celia Veloso, Mary Jane resorted to picking plastics and other recyclable materials to help her family get by.

She only made through the first year of high school before dropping out.

When she was just 17, she married Michael Candelaria. They eventually separated, but they had two children: Mark Daniel and Mark Darren.

In further hopes to improve the lives of her family and provide for the education of her children, Veloso went to Dubai in 2009 to work as a household service worker.

In 2010, she returned to the Philippines before her two-year contract ended because her employer tried to rape her.

Veloso on April 2010 was recruited by Maria Kristina Sergio, the daughter of her godfather, to work as a domestic worker in Malaysia for Sergio's Malaysian friend.

According to Migrante, Veloso paid Sergio P20,000 in cash, along with a motorcycle and her cell phone to cover employment costs.

On April 22, Veloso and Sergio left for Malaysia. Veloso only packed a few shirts and pants.

On their arrival in Kuala Lumpur, Sergio told Veloso that the promised job was no longer available. But Sergio reassured her that she would get another job for her.

Veloso stayed for another three days in Malaysia, during which time Sergio took her around the city to shopping sprees.

Airport incident

On April 25, 2010, Sergio told Veloso to pack her things as she would be leaving to work in Indonesia.

Veloso was hesitant because she did not have enough money to pay for the plane ticket to Indonesia. But Sergio assured her that she would take care of it.

Sergio handed Veloso her money and a brand new, empty suitcase to put her newly-bought clothes in.

Related: How to avoid being an unwitting drug courier

On arrival at the Adisucipto International Airport in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Veloso placed her luggage at the X-ray machine, where an airport personnel detected suspicious items in her suitcase.

Airport officials took out all the contents of her luggage, but found nothing.

Again, she placed her luggage in the machine, which again detected something, prompting airport personnel to destroy her bag.

The 2.6 kilos of heroin valued at $500,000 was neatly packed in the inner part of her baggage.

Veloso was immediately detained, but she insisted on her innocence.

Related: Mary Jane Veloso's recruiter Maria Kristina Sergio surrenders

On May 11, more than two weeks after the airport incident, Veloso texted her sister Darling to let her family know how much she loved them.

Then she broke the news: “Ate nakulong ako.”

[Translation: "I'm in jail."]

Long legal road ahead

In July 2010, the Philippine Embassy in Indonesia was informed about Veloso's arrest.

Related: Binay pleads with Indonesian VP, meets Veloso kin

In October, six months after she was arrested, prosecutors asked the court to sentence Veloso to life imprisonment.

But the judges handed down instead a death sentence by firing squad.

On August 2011, President Benigno Aquino III submitted an appeal for clemency on behalf of Mary Jane to then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The latter replied months later that the case will be given careful consideration in accordance with Indonesia’s relevant laws.

On June 5, 2013, Veloso's mother, father, and two sons visited her in Indonesia with the financial help of Veloso's fellow inmates and jail guards.

When Joko Widodo was sworn in as the new Indonesian president in October 2014, he declared war against drug trafficking and rejected all the clemency requests from drug convicts on death row.

In January 2015, President Jokowi, as he is popularly known, rejected a batch of clemency appeals — including Veloso's.

The lawyers hired by the Philippine government in 2010 quickly filed a request for a judicial review on January 19 — the final legal option open to her in the Indonesian justice system.

Review petition rejected

During Widodo's state visit to the Philippines last February 9, 2015, President Benigno Aquino III raised Veloso’s case with the Indonesian president.

A two-day trial was held in Sleman on March 3 and 4, 2015 to determine whether there was new evidence in her case.

Lawyers argued she deserved a case review because she wasn’t given a capable translator.

But on March 25, the Indonesian Supreme Court rejected the case review request.

Related: Family of Mary Jane Veloso asks for clemency

A few minutes before the office hours closed last April 24, lawyer from the National Union of People’s Lawyers filed a second judicial appeal at the Sleman District Court in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Indonesian authorities transferred Veloso, along with eight others, to prison island of Nusakambangan on April 24, 2015, ahead of her execution.

On April 25, Veloso's family received the execution order with the execution date set on April 28.

Related: Lawyer: Veloso was calm, happy, hopeful

The second judicial appeal was rejected by the court on April 27 based on Supreme Court rule that only one appeal is allowed.

According to Migrante, the Philippine government did not provide her enough legal assistance — from investigation to conviction.

But the Department of Foreign Affairs said it did everything it could by "exhausting all legal means."

Veloso writes

In her own words and writing, Veloso emphasized that she was a victim of drug trafficking, briefly explaining the circumstances that led to her arrest.

"Nakuhanan ng drugs ang dala-dala kong bag na binili ng kaibigan ng nagsama sa akin sa ibang bansa at hinuli ako ng pulis at hinatulan ng kamatayan," she wrote.

[Translation: "Drugs were found in the bag that was I was carrying, which was bought by a friend of the one who accompanied me. I was arrested by police and sentenced to death."]

She also advised others seeking jobs abroad to be wary of illegal recruiters: "Huwag kayong magpapabaya sa mga rekruter na hindi gumagamit ng ligal na paraan, para makaiwas tayo sa ano mang klaseng problema."

[Translation: "Don’t be fooled by illegal recruiters – unlike me who was tricked. I got imprisoned for five years now for a crime that I did not do and was sentenced to death."]

Photo gallery: Veloso’s letters to Aquino & Binay, Filipino youth and women, and the ‘real criminals’

Up until the last few hours before her execution, several migrant groups and concerned individuals are still conducting vigils and rallies, hoping for a miracle to change Veloso's fate.