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.”

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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.]

17 Replies to “The Philippines’ shame: Bickering over the Mary Jane Veloso case”

  1. 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?

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

  3. 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 and guile could easily escape a 3rd world prison, question is: ONCE outside ,then what?Help is necessary to remain outside.

    1. Bing Bong,
      that is the perfect script for a Hollywood block buster movie. A political thriller, “Free at last”. Now who will play the role of MJV? Mila Kunis?

      1. William ‘BILLY’ Hayes made ‘Midnight Express’ after he escaped from a Turkish prison, after being caught smuggling hashish, and won an oscar for his efforts.

        HA, I’m thinkin we could do it Filipino style and make all slapstick comedy and mock drama, and of, course she gets whacked at the end, not by the firing squad but by the people that help her escape !!!! Hows that for a ‘FLIP’ of the script,LOL !!!!!

    2. I’ve seen a depiction of an Indonesian jailbreak in the movie “The Raid 2” haha and it isn’t very glamorous.

  4. ..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: papatulan ko ba siya, or I will just let it go? I think I will just let it go and try to control my emotion as much as possible. Why? Because I lose which way you look at it kung papatulan ko sya. Say, I take out my gun, lalabas sobra yabang ko; worse if I wound him. Or say, he hurts me with an iron pipe, and thus I sue him. If I win the case, where will he get the money to pay me? Baka I end up pa feeding his family if he goes to jail, isn’t it? Well, this is not about denigrating the D and E in our society, but above serve as a good analogy on what Malacañang is doing with the Velosos. Are they so insecure that they forgot to show magnanimity since they are the one in a superior position, supposedly? Sonamagan, these people….gggrrrrrr..

    Secondly, aren’t the masa, and more critically the OFWs, supposedly the bosses. “Sila ang boss ko” was what PNoy said in a number of occasions. Or, was that another of his hollow slogans? Assuming the Veloso mother was being irrational, where is the patience and tolerance? So, sino ngayon ang ‘wah-class’, yun taga palasyo, o yun taga bahay kubo?

    Lastly, the Velosos have just been through a terrible week; could the Palace have at least delayed replying? O, baka sagutin nanaman sila ni PNoy, like what he did with the family of the SAF44: “wala yan, ehh, tatay ko nga tinumba ng ganun lang sa airport… so, ano rinireklamo nyo, mas masakit yun karanasan ko!!”

    Patay kang bata ka!!! Philippines will never win… eh de ano pa nga ba ha, mga tyong at tyang… yakkk. Talo nanaman lahat tayong Pinoys.

  5. 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…

  6. 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 matter of fact, given the large amount of remittance OFWs are sending that keeps our economy afloat, it is imperative that the government should take care of them(OFWs) at all cost. Ditto, I empathize with the VELOSO family, the ordeal that they are going thru (even at this point or until such time that Mary Jane is finally exonerated) is not easy. But hey, let’s call a spade a spade, Mary Jane’s mother was overdramatic when she declared her sentiments and became oblivious that she was addressing it to, unfortunately, the PRESIDENT of the Repulic of the Philippines. Was she not coached? Was it not scripted? Was she really speaking from the heart? Because if she was, she should have considered many things first before she even tried opening her mouth, i.e.:

    1 It’s not the President’s fault or anyone else’s for that matter why Mary Jane was incarcerated.
    2 Isn’t it more practical not to be confrontational and simply be magnanimous since a certain degree of Victory was already achieved?
    3 Will it not be more beneficial to win all sides so that a truly concerted efforts be maximized to attain the main objective of convincing Indonesian President/Government that Mary Jane is innocent of the crime lodged against her.

    Much has been said against the President and I agree that most of them are valid. Truth is, I am one of those clamoring for a CHANGE in the ways Aquino and his cabinet are doing. But in this particular case, I simply disagree in the manner by which Mary Jane’s mother aired her disgust in public.

    You can skin a cat in more ways than one. To rephrase MLQ’s Politics is addition….Life in general is MULTIPLICATION…..

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. “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 fixing a water leak that the plumber actually fixed.

    And perhaps that anti-Veloso sentiments are tainted by mere anti-Indonesian sentiments?

    1. Following your logic in a mismatch between cause and effect — we should actually shoot the drug mule who caused the whole controversy in the first place.

      At this point, I don’t know the whole story of why Sergio surrender. She is kept under wraps. Don’t be surprised to find out later than evidence against her weak – a possibility. If I were to trace back the news events, Widodo spoke to his official in charge of migrant affairs and NOT the activists. No Indonesian activists were consulted in the last minute. Besides, eight others were executed which really puts into question on how important Indonesian Activists are in Widodo’s decision making. By the way, the Indonesian Government for better or worse, acknowledged the request of the Philippine government.

  10. 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.

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