• Miracle or prolonged agony

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    FILIPINOS gave a collective sigh of relief upon hearing news that Mary Jane Veloso’s execution was postponed, even as eight others were carried through despite appeals from world leaders. But celebrations are on hold as we determine whether what happened was a miracle or something else that only prolongs the agony. What we have as of this writing is a Jakarta Post report saying that the reprieve was granted after the woman who recruited Veloso as a drug courier had surrendered to Philippine authorities. Clearly, Veloso is, as they say, not yet out of the woods.

    It is also becoming evident that President Aquino deserves credit for the reprieve. Before this development, the Aquino government was lambasted for supposedly acting too late and not doing enough to provide assistance to Veloso. It turns out that President Aquino had written letters and made personal appeals as early as when Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was Indonesia’s president, way before the present-day media fanfare. In fact, Migrante and its allies have been exploiting the looming execution to lob political attacks at the administration, conveniently forgetting that a crime was committed albeit unwittingly.

    Still, we agree that the government could have done more. But what exactly? Migrante claims that the government could have provided legal assistance earlier in Veloso’s trial, but officials argue that they have done just that. Tit for tat is unproductive. We should not forget that anywhere from 41 to 80 Filipinos are reportedly on death row worldwide. Agence France-Press also reports that about 800 Filipinos are in detention for drug-related offenses around the world. The point is, Veloso’s case is the symptom of a larger problem. The reality is, the solutions that could help her and many others are not as simple as we may glean from the sound bites coming from the government and its critics.

    Without giving up on Veloso, we should place our collective focus on the root of the problem, which is poverty. Remember that it was the false promise of a better income that lured Veloso to leave under the guise of a tourist and eventually fall prey to a criminal syndicate. It is the insufficiency of economic opportunities here at home that pushes millions of Filipinos to take huge risks abroad.

    With his term winding down, though, President Aquino has yet to produce a policy for overseas workers. Also, the impact of his dole-out program, the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), on poverty can be hardly felt even after its budget has ballooned to more than P62 billion. And the economic growth that the country has been experiencing could have been even bigger if not for the consistently slow public spending, a vital part of the aggregate economy.

    We concede that addressing those economic and political issues will do little for Veloso. But our collective focus should be broader than her case, no matter how tragic it may still turn out. President Aquino and his team should do more than react to crises that crop up. Even if they are successful in making the reprieve permanent, that does little to help the scores of other Filipinos on death row in foreign prisons. Good governance means more than dousing fires, like Veloso’s case. Good governance should be about effective administration that leaves a legacy of meaningful reforms that prevent or at least mitigate similar events from happening at all.

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    4 Comments

    1. Bert O. Romero on

      The reprieve was neither a miracle nor Pinoy’s handiwork. It was primarily Indonesia’s beneficence as a true friend of the Philippines that moved the Indonesian government to grant the reprieve. Indonesia’s true friendship with the Philippines had likewise been shown in the past when the Philippines needed help.

      According to the late Singapore leader Lee Kuan Yew, as he narrated in his memoirs, From a Third World to First, and as corroborated by former PM Cesar Virata in his biography written by Gerardo Sicat, then Minister of Trade and Industry, Roberto V. Ongpin, was tasked by then President Ferdinand Marcos to seek loans from Indonesia, Brunei and Singapore at the height of the Philippines’ debt crisis in 1984 . Indonesia and Brunei granted the sought loan but Lee Kuan Yew declined commenting that if Singapore lent us the money, that would be the last time Singapore would see it because it would never be repaid.

      Indonesia lent its good offices and served as the facilitator/ mediator in the peace negotiation between the Government of the Philippines ( GRP ) and Nur Misuari’s Moro National Liberation Front ( MNLF ) which culminated in the signing of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the two parties. Under the balanced mediation efforts of Indonesia, the negotiation was never marred with accusation of partisanship or one-sidedness.

      In 2005, at the height of the anti- Arroyo protests, triggered by charges of electoral fraud and exacerbated by the resignation of the so-called Hyatt 10, then Indonesan President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyuno made a one-day official visit to the Philippines to show his solidarity with President Arroyo. This SBY visit together with that by former President Ramos in Malacanang “while doing his regular jogging exercise” were considered the fateful events that saved and turned the tide in favor of the Arroyo presidency.

      The Mary Jane Veloso reprieve brought to mind the Contemplacion case and the opposite approaches adopted by two of our ASEAN friends and neighbors :Singapore and Indonesia. Singapore did not allow itself to be moved by pleas from the Philippines to spare the life of Contemplacion even to the point of the severance of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The Contemplacion case did not even merit a single line in Lee Kuan Yew’s above-cited memoirs.

      I am certain that in both the Contemplacion and Mary Jane’s cases, similar last- minute efforts were employed by the Philippine government to save the lives of both but with dissimilar results. How can we therefore credit reprieving the life of Mary Jane to Pinoy? Should’nt we credit it to the Indonesian government which once more has manifested its friendship to the Philippines?

    2. Pnoy Aquino was quick out of the traps to claim credit for the delay in execution of mary jane veloso, even diminishing the efforts and the prayers of filipinos and others around the world, and wanting 100% credit for himself. The smiling dog, or laughing hyena, could hardly contain his joy at the chance of a publicity bandwagon to jump aboard. It was all hands on deck, and the keyboard, even cheerleader in chief kris aquino, to spin a yarn for the media.

      “A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit”
      Arnold H. Glasow

      The turning point, and the single most important factor, was certainly the meeting on tuesday afternoon between Migrant Care and President Widodo, which Indonesia have acknowledged. All credit to Migrante for their continuous and tireless work around the world. Not a mention of them by pnoy aquino or his flock of credit jackdaws.

      The bigger questions which Pnoy Aquino should now be answering

      Why didn’t the government help mary jane veloso in the previous 5 years? No legal aid and no attempts to find the recruiter despite numerous requests. Why only react to a case when it got international attention.

      Why did Pnoy Aquino stop the legal aid fund for OFW’s?

      Where are the well paid jobs at home for OFW’s, which Pnoy Aquino promised, which would then not force desperate people into such situations?

      Human trafficking has nearly doubled under Pnoy Aquino. What is being done about it?

      What is being done to help the other 87 filipinos on death row?

      Mary Jane Veloso symbolises the failure of Pnoy Aquinos government to help or support ofw’s, and instead just hoover up their remittances, which prop up the economy. Pnoy Aquino should be on his knees thanking them, instead of milking them for money, or publicity.

    3. Eddie de Leon on

      The Manila Times has the voice of wisdom and patriotic vigilance in its editorials!