The House of Representatives is set to investigate the plight of convicted drug courier Mary Jane Veloso whose death by an Indonesian firing squad was suspended at last minute.
In a press briefing Tuesday, AGAP Representative Nicanor Briones, the new chair of the overseas workers affairs committee, said the probe scheduled for June 10 was prompted by a resolution filed by Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate.
Briones took over resigned Akbayan Representative Walden Bello as chair of the committee.
He said that besides Veloso, the panel would also hear the plight of other OFWs.
“Hindi lang yung kay Mary Jane Veloso kundi lahat ng mga kaso ng mga OFWs,” Briones said.
Colmenares and Zarate filed House Resolution 2042 directing the overseas workers affairs committee to investigate Veloso’s case and those of other OFWs penalized abroad for drug trafficking.
Veloso is one of 41 Filipinos meted the death penalty abroad, the Department of Foreign Affairs told the House dangerous drugs committee in an earlier hearing. The agency added that in all 1,288 Filipinos were detained abroad for drug-related offenses
“In the light of Veloso’s case, it is of utmost urgency for Congress to investigate the case of the so-called drug mules who are unsuspectingly used by drug syndicates and the modus operandi of the same to forewarn the public, especially those applying for jobs through the Internet,” Bayan Muna’s resolution read.
It added that Congress must also look into the efforts of the government to protect and assist OFWs like Veloso and soon-to-be OFWs from becoming victims of criminal syndicates.
Briones said among the resource persons invited on June 10 at 9:30 a.m. were Veloso’s family and lawyers, representatives from the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Justice, and Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, among others.
After Bello resigned following a falling out with the administration, Briones took over the post that was supposed to be taken by boxer and Sarangani Representative Manny Pacquiao, the most senior vice chair.
But Pacquiao, the top absentee in Congress, failed to get the post which went to Briones, a third-term congressman and president of the Party-list Coalition Foundation in Congress.
Veloso was sentenced to death by firing squad following her drug trafficking conviction in Indonesia. The execution was stopped at the last minute after her alleged recruiter Maria Kristina Sergio surrendered to police in Nueva Ecija.
After Sergio was put under police custody, others have come out and claimed to be victims of her human trafficking activities.
The Philippine government has requested to delay the execution to tap Veloso as a witness in Sergio’s human trafficking, illegal recruitment and estafa cases before the Department of Justice.
Sergio and her live-in partner Julius Lacanilao are detained at the Nueva Ecija provincial jail for illegal recruitment.
In her affidavit, Veloso said she fell victim to an illegal recruiter and was used as an unwilling drug mule.
She was originally recruited as a domestic helper in Kuala Lumpur until her recruiter, Sergio, allegedly asked her to proceed to Indonesia with an empty but heavy suitcase. Authorities arrested Veloso upon finding 2.6 kilograms of heroin inside the suitcase’s lining.