There was an outpour of sympathy from Indonesians and Filipinos for Mary Jane Veloso, days before she had to face her death sentence by firing squad in Indonesia. Mary Jane is a Filipina MOTHER who has been declaring her innocence over a conviction for drug trafficking since Day 1 of her 5-year ordeal. The hashtags: #SaveMaryJane and #MaryJaneLIVES went a-trending and reached fever-pitch on social media on the eve of her scheduled execution, but no sooner than a day’s interval, many Filipino netizens went 360 on their support and demanded blood with comments and posts, ballistic with #BitayinNaYan and #FiringSquadforCeliaVeloso. The words INGRATA and UNGRATEFUL stringed with the hashtags were the harsh replies to the pain of Celia Veloso, the MOTHER of Mary Jane, who went vocal on the truth that she has kept to herself and their family since 2010.
For a nation that is steeped in religion, the quick and vile pronouncements against these two mothers are disturbingly unbecoming. It is devoid of compassion and distended with hubris! A hubris, which the ancient Greeks defined well, as the intentional use of violence to humiliate or degrade.
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Where is the arrogance stemming from? Can it be attributed to the absence of the double-edged Filipino cultural trait of utang na loob (Debt of gratitude) and not in defense of a political color that is so rabidly and blindly supported?
Not known to many, Mary Jane could have evaded the death penalty in 2010 had the government unified its effort with Mary Jane’s Indonesian lawyers in the latter’s recommendation for a life sentence. The Veloso family relentlessly appealed for assistance from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) but was given the run around in 2010. They live in Nueva Ecija and despite their poverty, they religiously sought whatever help they can seek from the government yet they got none, not until the death penalty was gaveled by the Indonesian court. It was only on April 2015, that Filipino lawyers, provided NOT by government but by the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) represented her appeal. The swift volunteer efforts by the NUPL that were complemented by international NGOs strengthened her defense.
October, 2010 :
“Indonesian public prosecutor Sri Anggraeni presents in the Sleman district court the recommendation for life imprisonment as penalty for Mary Jane’s offense. Mary Jane is represented by court-appointed pro bono lawyer Edy Haryanto.” (“#SaveMary Jane TIMELINE OF EVENTS: Let the facts speak for themselves,migranteinternational.org and “Timeline: The case of Mary Jane Veloso”, globalnation.inquirer.net)
March 3, 2015 :
“The Sleman District Court held the first hearing where the Defense informed the court of the reasons for the Application of Judicial Review relating to the lapses in the proceedings at the trial court in 2010: 1) the problem in translations, 2)the qualifications of the court-appointed translator, and 3) the language barrier.” (#SaveMary Jane TIMELINE OF EVENTS: Let the facts speak for themselves,migranteinternational.org)
newsinfo.inquirer.net on May 1, 2015 quoted: “Veloso’s Indonesian lawyers as saying, “If you came in earlier, we could have done more.”
“…the PH government only attended to this AFTER the judicial review had been rejected by the Indonesian Supreme Court on March 25, 2015.“ A BAND-AID SOLUTION to a problem that has become terminal. The case of Mary Jane was hushed for FIVE YEARS and only came to public attention on the month of her execution!
Yet many judged her and her mother.
Many fail to see Mary Jane as a mother whose only aim was to be an OFW just so, she can provide education and a decent living for her children. Her hopes was to extend the same to her parents for they are a poor “family in Nueva Ecija. They resorted to picking plastics and other recyclable materials because the pay from Mary Jane’s father as a seasonal worker in Hacienda Luisita was never enough. She is the youngest among 5 children. She only made it to first year high school, married early, and had two children.”
The family is being victimized over and over.
Then, by the Lords of Hacienda Luisita and the evil of drug syndicates and now, BULLIED BY MY VERY OWN KABABAYANS who demanded for the death of the TWO Veloso mothers. Apparently, our poor Motherland has no abundance of citizens who can genuinely empathize with the least of her children.
Truth is, Mary Jane’s case isn’t unique, appeals for support for trafficked Filipinos are usually downplayed by the government. My kababayans become nameless until they find a way to get noticed by NGOs and once their stories hit the news, they are tried and judged by the Court of Popular Opinion.
My country has many of those who would always see drug traffickers as willing participants in the drug trade without any consideration to the fact, that not all of them are willing participants in the drug trade but are simply, poor Filipinos who didn’t know any better. Filipinos who for lack of proper employment that would provide a decent living for their loved ones, are left with no choice but to see each recruiter as an opportunity for a better life.
Before Mary Jane’s case in Indonesia and before China meted out the death penalty to Sally Villanueva and two other Fiipinos in 2011, a trafficked Filipina shared to me a chapter of her life when she was made into a DRUG MULE.
Just like Mary Jane, the young Filipina was promised a decent job in Malaysia by an illegal “recruiter” but unlike Mary Jane, this lady was brought to China where she was prostituted together with other Filipinas. The lady has an innate intelligence, and the pimps saw the potential. They took her out of prostitution and was made to transport drugs. Unlike the many other Filipinos who get caught and are jailed, the pimps ensured that detection would be hard. Our kababayan was made to swallow the drugs in plastic capsules and the turn over was made through bowel movement.
Her account also included that when her trips required stop overs, she forced herself to pass the capsuled drugs by defecating at airport toilets and willed herself to swallow it again shortly prior to boarding. All that was her idea just to survive each run in countries where drug trafficking merits a death penalty. She was eventually caught by the Malayasian authorities not because of drug trafficking but because of an expired passport. It was during her time in jail, that she was able to inform a relative of her predicament via email.
Through the efforts of Coalition Against Trafficking In Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP), this lady was found and rescued from the Malaysian jail. She was also given pro bono legal assistance for the case that she filed versus her recruiter. This lady is a college graduate who used to work at a call center. It was unfathomable for me, as to how she got duped by an illegal recruiter. If she can be as easily conned, what more of the likes of Mary Jane, who are less educated, who have no awareness of a dog eat dog world and with a need to provide not just for her own?
Will there be an end to it? Maybe when Filipinos come to terms with the truth:
In 2014, I wrote:
…thanks to the lack of opportunities in our country, our educated do not earn what should be rightfully ours yet those who work around our dysfunctional system are living high. Add the many local employees who face “endo” just so, companies can save on their OPEX. Ah the disparity of the rich and poor widens yet tolerant aren’t we, of the abuse of the politicians we elected into office and the companies we patronize rabidly.We sleep consoling ourselves with the delusion of being a Proud Filipino yet the truth can never be consoled with lies. It haunts until we awaken and grasp it…(From Insulted much? Talaga lang huh,!)
This I wrote in a 2015 article:
…Poverty, migration and a disability, that is beyond the physiological, are all rooted in the inability of the Philippines to address the widening gap of the rich and poor.
The aperture is wide but many are too deluded to realize the irony that is in the Philippines, being home to 3 out of the 10 biggest shopping malls on earth catering to hyper-consumerism (huffingtonpost.com). Philippines has shoppers high rolling on sprees, apathetic to the many who have no access to basic needs.
The only Catholic nation in Asia has become a nation of Contractuals, and for what purpose? To reduce the cost of the long-term benefits due of a regular employee, at the detriment of a population that is highly dependent on regular employment.
The hardest hit of the demography are those who have anemic educational background, and such is common to the poor who cannot afford matriculation or send their families to the Ivy League schools.
The poor who have been made ignorant by the dumbing entertainment and have been diminished as nothing but numbers for every political agenda. facts from the World Bank may also give the rude awakening that goes with spiritual healing:“…the country’s Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality, stands at 0.43…The World Bank said the Gini coefficient of inequality varies between 0, which reflects complete equality and 1, which indicates complete inequality.
The World Bank said the high economic growth that the Philippines posted was not able to benefit the poor…” (From The Call of Pope Francis turned to cash)
A BOOMING. ECONOMY says the Philippine president with the signature Yellow pin. He even posed a rhetorical question to his “Bosses” about “pag-unlad” under his term. Unfortunately, your Excellency in the glass tower, the boom that your administration has been proudly claiming as its own, doesn’t trickle down to those who most need it and those who need it the mostest, are the mothers like Mary Jane who are more than willing to care for children and a household that are not their own just so they can provide for the ones they had to leave behind. Mothers like Mary Jane who are left with no option but to believe anyone who can open such an opportunity, even if it is nothing but a lie.
Mike is the author of “Minsan may Isang Puta”, an allegory which has been circulating since 2004 and with over 50,000 likes and shares in social media alone. It won a film grant in 2010 to be included in the multi-narrative Indie film “Ganap na Babae” (International title: Garden of Eve). The teaser, reviews and commentaries are here. The movie was honored as Cinemalaya 2010’s opening film and has won international and local recognition.
The royalties from the initial 150 copies of Mike’s first sole-authored book, The Dove Files, went to a Project Malasakit scholar who graduated Cum Laude in April 2013, the rest was also paid forward to baby Mark who underwent a liver transplant in March 2013.
Part of the royalties of the “Minsan may Isang Puta” book at Barnes and Noble Online goes to support the education of a young Yolanda survivor taking up B.S. Accounting at U.P. Tacloban.