The Philippines’ shame: Bickering over the Mary Jane Veloso case

What was otherwise a joyful event was turned into another Philippine circus. Filipinos rejoiced this week after Mary Jane Veloso who languished in an Indonesian prison for five years on charges of drug trafficking and was scheduled for execution last Tuesday was granted a reprieve. However, this show of rare unity in joy was short-lived. Soon after the announcement that the Indonesian government had granted a last-minute postponement of Veloso’s execution, the scramble to grab credit for this “win” started in the Philippines.

mary_jane_velosoQuick off the mark was the administration of Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III, pitching itself as one that moved heaven and earth — even breaking diplomatic protocol when Aquino supposedly made representations directly with Indonesia’s foreign minister — to save Veloso’s life. Unfortunately for Malacanang, no less than Veloso’s mother Celia was not amused by BS Aquino’s self-crowning as national miracle worker…

In an apparent reference to Aquino, she said: “He is telling the whole world that he helped save my daughter’s life. That is not true. Get ready, we are here to charge you. We will fight you.”


“Had the government not been remiss, my sister would not have been in trouble,” she said.

The cornerstone of the position Malacanang is taking to defend itself against allegations of negligence in the early days of Veloso’s plight is that as early as 2011, Aquino had already requested then Indonesian President Susilio Bambang Yudhoyono that clemency be granted Veloso. But reports have revealed that the actual services provided Veloso on the ground were not consistent with these high-level representations. Over the most part of her ordeal in Indonesia, she reportedly “had no counsel when her initial testimonies were recorded, and was assisted during trial by an unlicensed translator.”

Senator Miriam Santiago echoed the sentiment held by many Filipinos that not enough timely effort had been applied by the Philippine government in the early days…

“Must we always resort to last-minute remedies? Must we wait for Filipinos to be put behind foreign bars or sentenced to death before we act?” Santiago said in a press statement.

Bizarrely, many Filipinos are now criticising Veloso’s family for failing to appreciate President BS Aquino’s efforts to support their cause — efforts, they say, that ultimately contributed significantly to saving her life. The trouble with Aquino’s legions of apologists is that their awareness of the Veloso case likely does not extend further back than the time it first started “trending” in social media just a couple of months ago. Veloso’s family, on the other hand, was in it from the beginning likely dealing with the Philippines’ famously indifferent and foot-dragging foreign department bureaucracy and enjoying no support from a Filipino public that was largely apathetic to their plight at the time.

From weak support from both government and public for more than four and a half years to a sudden swelling of attention at the eleventh hour when Veloso’s execution was just weeks away; suffice to say, it would not at all sit well with anyone to be left to fend for themself for years then see their ordeal suddenly made into a circus towards the end game — both by their government and their compatriots.

The bottom line here is that the way things turned out for Veloso was really just an outcome of many things coming together at the right time. President BS Aquino, rather than crown himself knight in shining armour, should, instead, have recognised his humble place as just one of many contributors in a collective effort to save Mary Jane Veloso.

[Photo coutesy Sky News.]


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17 Comments on "The Philippines’ shame: Bickering over the Mary Jane Veloso case"

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Isn’t she still screwed though? I don’t know anything about Indonesian Law. If getting the charges dropped or getting an acquittal is impossible at this point, aren’t we just prolonging her agony?


people just morphed from “save her” to “off with their heads” simply because their yellow boss (pun intended) was dissed. murderous idiots.

If this woman had got away with here crime, would she have prospered? OR was she really just a dupe in a game of cat & mouse? Wel, never mind that, fact is she got caught ,is on ‘death row’ and should prepare herself for what could very well happen, facing the firing squad ! If not, and she is spared, a life in an Indonesian prison doesn’t sound too glamourous, BUT THERE IS ALWAYS THE POSSIBILITY OF ESCAPE. The 3rd world’s prison’s are nowhere near as secure as the ‘Super Max’ prison’s/jails of the West.A Man of reasonable size… Read more »
..Most absurd, most ridiculous, most preposterous, most ludicrous thing. Sumariopezzz. Ano ba yan??!! Do they even have respect for a place called Malacañang Palace? We know it is a snake’s pit, but do they have to make it obvious? So, pa’no nangyari na para silang mga palengkerang nakikipag-away sa Divisoria Market? Imagine, Malacañang Palace pumatol sa isang bahay kubo — that is what it is, isn’t it? Say, I am from a gated community, drive a nice SUV, and I get into some fracas with a jeepney driver. He is very angry, I am as angry as him. Question is:… Read more »

Aquino will make himself a hero, in any situation that fits his agenda. He is very fast to grab credit. However, if a big negligence is there, like the Mamapasano massacre; Aquino will find a suitable Escape Goat, for his negligence.
This is the non accomplishing, incompetent President, you have elected by HCOS PCOS…

Markt Wain
I see your point. I’m just curious, what, if the President did nothing and just waited for the execution to happen. What, if the President did not go the other mile, so to speak, so that REPRIEVE would not have been granted. Am not a big fan of the fellow currently occupying the highest seat in Malacanang Palace. But don’t you think this is the best example of “DAMN IF YOU DO, DAMN IF YOU DON’T” cliche. I agree with you that this government should have provided all legal assistance available during the early stage of the case. As a… Read more »

Defensiveness is usually someone silently screaming that they need you to value and respect them in disguise. When you look for deeper meanings behind someone’s pain you can then begin to heal not only yourself, but others.

Alex Gomez

So as not to reap any credit and use for political mileage, better to have NOT received last minute help?

Really? We really think that a) our Philippine Government has ALL the resources in the world (Of Course Not that’s why We Have a Budget Deficit) and b) on average we have very competent Filipinos actually, there are few competent Filipinos and are always out voiced and out positioned by the majority of incompetent Filipinos

“People” assume that since the Noy Regime asked for clemency in 2011, this was the effort that led to Mary Jane’s reprieve. No, it’s a mismatch of cause and effect. The more likely causes are one, Mary Jane’s recruiter Sergio surrendering to police (it’s likely the Indonesians were informed of this by other channels than the Philippine government) and two, Indonesian activists (no, not Migrante or OFW groups) exerting pressure on the Widodo government. So telling the Velosos to shut up because the Aquinos tried to intercede on their behalf like telling the house owner to thank the electrician for… Read more »

Veloso the drug mule may still get executed, depending on how the evidence plays out. But the Aquino government has so far done a BETTER job helping her stay alive, compared to Australia’s failure to convince the Indonesians not to execute the Aussie drug traffickers.