Ph media to blame for lack of awareness and division over issues like the Mary Jane Veloso case


I’ve never heard of the name Mary Jane Veloso until a week before her scheduled execution on the 28th of April 2015. When her name started trending on social media just days before she was supposed to be killed by firing squad, I still had no idea what her ordeal was about. I have to admit that when I finally read that she was convicted of illegal drug smuggling in Indonesia, I shook my head in disbelief at how people were frantically asking Indonesia for a reprieve only on her final hours.

Mary Jane Veloso: Public sentiment now divided due to shallow and misleading media coverage

Mary Jane Veloso: Public sentiment now divided due to shallow and misleading media coverage

Yes, I was a bit annoyed that people were only making a fuss about her case when it appeared little to none could be done about it. This seems to happen for a lot of overseas contract workers on death row. In Veloso’s case, it turns out, I was wrong. The last minute appeal was worth it. The people who frantically worked on saving Mary Jane were rewarded with a temporary reprieve by the Indonesian government after her illegal recruiter surrendered to Philippine National Police.

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I blame my lack of knowledge about Veloso’s plight on Philippine mainstream media. They did not write about her case enough to raise awareness. It’s no surprise considering mainstream media hardly feature the plight of ordinary citizens in their publications. But they do feature a lot of information about the lives of celebrities like Kris Aquino. In fact, just a few days before I read about Mary Jane, people were sharing the article “Why Kris asked for her mom’s engagement ring–the family heirloom.” I mean, who cares about that kind of crap? I don’t know why I read it. I didn’t really feel good after reading it. If only there was a way to unread senseless items like that.

There seems to be less investigative journalists who try to uncover anomalies in both the private and public sectors nowadays. It seems they have more people working on writing about flaky issues like a celebrity’s jewellery. Maybe journalists are scared for their lives nowadays with the number of journalists being assassinated and so they would rather stay away from controversial issues. It says a lot about Filipino patriotism though. It means there are fewer journalists who are willing to risk his or her life to exposing the truth.

Had more Filipinos known about Veloso’s case years ago through mainstream media, more people could have helped her pressure the government to clear her name. Unfortunately for Veloso, there was no “investigative journalist” who was interested in writing about her five-year ordeal in an Indonesian jail.

Yes, the Department of Justice is finally doing its job to prosecute Veloso’s former friend and recruiter, Ma. Cristina Sergio but one can be forgiven for thinking their only motivation is due to public scrutiny. It also seems that the Department of Justice (DOJ) only does its job when ordered by President Benigno Simeon (BS) Aquino. In 2010, the same year Veloso was arrested, the DOJ was very, very busy coming up with charges to arrest former President Gloria Arroyo and prosecute former Chief Justice Renato Corona. In other words, the DOJ had other priorities that were more important to BS Aquino back in 2010.

Failure of journalism: Inquirer gaffe killed Veloso literally before the fact!

Failure of journalism: Inquirer gaffe killed Veloso literally before the fact!

Mary Jane Veloso’s dilemma is really complicated. It became even worse when her mother Celia Veloso released a tirade against BS Aquino as soon as she got back from Indonesia. While it didn’t help her daughter’s case at all, it’s hard to judge a mother who just went through an emotional roller-coaster. The public euphoria in support of her daughter soon turned into public condemnation after her public outburst. This was partly the fault of some members of mainstream media who were quick to paint BS Aquino as the hero of the day. It made the Velosos seem ungrateful. It didn’t help that the public only found out about her recently, again due to lack of media coverage.

It’s not hard to analyze why the public quickly turned against the Velosos though. Some were even wishing them all to die. Aside from the lack of information about her case, the majority of the public did not really sympathize with Mary Jane Veloso anyway because she was a convicted drug smuggler. Before she was given temporary reprieve, there were a lot of Filipinos who expressed their anger towards her. They thought she actually deserved the death penalty. They were disgusted that she was helping in the proliferation of illegal drugs on the streets – a substance that has wrought havoc in societies all over the world. Some people thought her greed was to blame for her situation. Guilty or not, people also thought that Indonesian laws should be respected.

When news of the surrender of Sergio surfaced, Veloso gained more supporters. They suddenly thought there could be truth to her claim that she had no knowledge that there was 2.6 kilograms of heroin in the suitcase given to her by a certain “Ike” who she met in Malaysia before heading to Indonesia. Hence, the hashtag #MaryJaneVeloso became among the highest trending topics on Twitter hours before her execution.

Netizens were lambasting BS Aquino for not doing enough to save her. This could explain why BS Aquino was compelled to talk to Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the ASEAN summit. There’s even an account that claims Widodo couldn’t be bothered to stop walking when BS Aquino tried to talk to him about Veloso. In short, it was only a brief encounter between the two heads of states. It was actually too convenient for BS Aquino that it’s quite ridiculous how his supporters were equating his move as the result of his “hard work”.

Brief encounter:  President BS Aquino's brief chat with President Widodo about Veloso does not equate to 'hard work'.

Brief encounter: President BS Aquino’s brief chat with President Widodo about Veloso does not equate to ‘hard work’.

Indeed, BS Aquino’s supporters have exaggerated BS Aquino’s role to give him all the credit for “saving” Veloso. They keep ignoring the fact that what finally convinced Widodo were Sergio’s surrender and Migrant Care Indonesia head Anis Hidayah’s plea to consider Veloso’s case. They also ignore the efforts exerted by Filipino migrants’ group Migrante International and its networks, the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) who have been helping the Velosos.

BS Aquino’s supporters should avoid trumpeting the President’s role or else they could jeopardize Veloso’s case and that of other Filipinos in death row. She could still face the firing squad. I’m sure Indonesia is also trying to avoid a precedent for other countries to use Veloso’s case to help their citizens in death row, which is why we will never hear President Widodo confirm that his decisions was influenced by President BS Aquino’s appeals. The other downside to highlighting the President’s role is that, the other OFWs on death row – all 79 of them, will be expecting him to do the same thing for them. Will BS Aquino still have the motivation to help them after Veloso’s case? Some say that while BS Aquino defended himself by saying he did not create their problem, his motivation to help the Velosos could have something to do with the fact that Mary Jane’s father was cane-cutter at Hacienda Luisita. That’s bad news for the other OFWs on death row.

Mainstream media is to blame for a lot of the conflicts and divisions in Philippine society. Some academics have even pointed out that the Philippine Daily Inquirer have lost their credibility after committing another gaffe – a headline announcing the death of Mary Jane Veloso. The media giant did not even apologize for the mistake. It is becoming obvious to a lot of people that the Inquirer has very little journalistic integrity. They seem partial to BS Aquino. The Philippines will not progress if members of major media organizations like the Inquirer act as propaganda tool for those in power. Ordinay folks like the Velosos will not win against government incompetence and abuse.

17 Replies to “Ph media to blame for lack of awareness and division over issues like the Mary Jane Veloso case”

  1. It begs the question though: how many important issues and questions escape the national conversion because the media neglects (or refuses for whatever reason) to report them?

    1. Exactly. They do not pursue issues that are of national interest. They should be making a big deal of how De Lima is not prioritising the prosecution of the other congressmen implicated in the PDAF scam, for example.

    2. So many, Tank. Very few know the details of the PCOS-Smartmatic issue, for one, or the sad saga of PGMA, particularly the fact that almost all the cases filed against her by the Aquino administration have been dismissed for lack of evidence. Frankly, it boggles the mind why the country’s mainstream media has come to this. Could it be because corruption is also rampant in the media? (I have personal knowledge of this.) Or could it be that the media’s kowtowing to the interests and whims of the Filipino masses, for the money, of course? (So many Filipinos don’t want to bother about the details of any news items, and about people they hate, like Arroyo, thanks again to her demonization by the local media.) God bless this country….

      1. Big Brother Media Abs-Cbn is a partner of the Aquino Gov’t.! Isisisi pa rin ba sa Masa ang kasalanan ng Media?! Ganyan ba ang mag-isip ang Intelligent na Tao? Namannn!!! 🙁

      2. @ Chris, Poor PGMA ? HA, what makes you think she is even in that hospital? or that she had those surgeries? PGMA and her family are just as guilty as the rest of the Filipino politicians are. Not a single one of them is anything but a member of a criminal syndicate that has robbed the Filipino people blind. If I sold you a used Helicopter ,and claimed it was new, and you paid me for it as if it were new……Would you think I was a SCAM artist?The whole charade of PGMA was/is to take the attention away from what was happening at the time. Every day its misdirection, misdirection,disinformation and the only thing that is a certainty as far as concerns about any of the politicians in the Republic of the Philippines is? They are all lying ,thieving weasels.Every single one of them.

  2. even journalism is a joke here. no gary webbs around tackling serious issues. instead you have “investigative documentaries” romanticizing poverty and mediocrity in the average pinoy struggle.

  3. So to summarize it all, there is no investigative journalism whatsoever in the Philippines? Not on TV, not in printed or online media?
    So the Philippines dont have a Jeremy Paxman?

    So that means nobody in the Philippines knows for sure that MJV was carrying a suitcase with 100KG of heoin?

    Hopefully, the guy/woman at the immigration/customs desk knows what was found inside MJV’s suitcase and that the findings were photographed at that time and that MJV was actually present when it was found.

  4. “Our Media has a social responsibility to make Philippines/World a better place by seeking TRUTH / JUSTICE, promoting/influence an intellect society and leave a positive impact on our people. And not just pursue profit from politicians or news maker at the expense of making our people dumb or brainwashed.” – Dale Gozar

  5. Failure of journalism: Inquirer gaffe killed Veloso literally before the fact!

    To be fair, major newspapers in the Philippines are already printed by early morning (I think around 1AM to 4AM), and considering MJV’s execution was scheduled around that time, and the high possibility that she will be executed, I think they’ve just assumed considering her execution will surely appear on the front page of other major newspapers.

    On another hand, they could have just played safe :-).

  6. a few years back, i sent a letter to the editor of the inquirer asking, why they would print any allegations of a crime on the front page in bold letters or even make it the headline but then, when the person who committed the alleged crime wrote them to clear his/her name or if an article comes out in the defense of alleged criminal or if evidence surfaces that refutes the alleged is printed in the letters to the editor or in the middle pages where a lot of people do not bother to read. and this is after the damage is done..people only read the large print and that is what is impressed in their minds..i asked in my letter what happened to their banner “Balanced News” —their reply went something like this, the ediotors, (misspelling intended) had the power where to put the articles according to their news worthiness…so if you find yourself in the headlines as a will be a thief in the eyes of the headline reading don’t really care public..pity you, na INQUIRER ka!!!

  7. Most of the Media: Radio, TV, newspapers, etc… are under the support of Aquino. They are his “tools”, to grab credit. And, heap praises on him.

    Aquino loved to be praised. Since, he has no good accomplishments. He is also ready to blame anyone, for his mistakes. And, find Escape goats, if this is needed.

  8. We did not expect the president to be fully aware of every issue concerning every individual in this country and so we have departments that should be responsible to perform those functions. In Veloso’s case, it was the DFA. The government as a whole should be blamed and i dont think it is fair to target the president on why it lasted for almost 5 years. That is what you call delegation and yeah, he should be on top of things but you need to understand that it is impossible for a leader with over 100 million citizens to be fully aware of everyone’s ordeal.

    1. Aquino is not an Organized Worker. He does not know what he is doing. Aquino is to blame, because, he did not have his Department Offices , brief him from time to time…instead, he is busy destroying his political enemies…

  9. I hate Ngoyngoy and his yellow government but I don’t think the Veloso case is his fault. Veloso broke Indonesian law so she is answerable to Indonesian punishment. Call me insensitive but if our OFWs will just educate themselves and not do shortcuts to get out of the country, they will not go under compromising situations. I also don’t agree that we have to blame the poor employmeny rate in our country. People are migrating to Singapore, Europe and America and they’re having a good life there. Discipline should be imposed to everybody. Filipinos should realize that following a foreign country’s mandate is a serious matter. Mahigpit ang tingin natin sa batas ng Singapore at Indonesia dahil sanay tayong pinapatawad sa lahat ng mali na ginagawa natin.

  10. This President Widodo looks like a smug POS, I’d like to knock his lights out just for considering to shoot someone over drug smuggling! If they world got over its idiotic treatment of people that want to use drugs, and made them all legal….the MJ Velosos’s of the world would not even have these problems, countries could tax and regulate the drugs and make them safer for the people that use them, there would be no money spent on prison guards and judges and parole officers and jail guards ! In short, the human race would be a lot better off.

  11. It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

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