AT around 2:00AM on April 29, I put up a status on Facebook about the news confirming that Mary Jane Veloso had not been executed. I had hashtagged that with #YouDoNotTakeCreditForThisPNoy.
That was an effort at getting ahead of Malacañang’s spin machine, which I knew would take this opportunity to claim something – anything! – given 2016 elections and no legacy to fall back on.
Early morning Wednesday, April 29, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Spokesperson Charles Jose said: “We are relieved that the execution of Mary Jane has not been carried out tonight. The Lord has answered our prayers.” (Inquirer.net, 29 Apr)
That same day, Malacañang, through its Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma asserted that the stay in execution was because of the people’s prayers. He also said: “The Philippine government thanks President Widodo and the Indonesian government for giving due consideration to President Aquino’s appeal that Mary Jane Veloso be given a reprieve.”
On the same day, Presidential sister Kris posted on her Instagram account: “I kept quiet w/ the endless attacks against PNoy because that was his reminder to me, but today it is my right & my privilege to say, I AM PROUD of my brother. I AM PROUD OF MY PRESIDENT.” (GMAnetwork.com, 29 Apr)
These statements reveal: (1) that the President is the one who is being given credit for having saved Mary Jane, and (2) that the only other people who deserve credit are those who prayed for Mary Jane.
That only God might be given credit is no surprise. Because this government, through the DFA had declared as early as noon on April 28 that they had: <…> “exhausted all legal remedies to Mary Jane and we did everything that we could but it seems both approaches – legal and diplomatic – have been closed.” (GMAnetwork.com, 28 Apr)
Less than 24 hours after this statement, Mary Jane was saved! It could only be a miracle! Or the President’s last-ditch plea!
My hashtag had anticipated that.
Those who did not give up
By noon of April 28, the government had declared they had done everything for Mary Jane and that the “execution appears to be imminent.”
While government had given up, the supporters of Mary Jane were growing in number in front of the Indonesian Embassy in Manila. In Indonesia, the noise of support for Mary Jane seems to have reached fever pitch, as Indonesian migrant and church workers “released to the international public the Attorney General’s mobile number, calling on supporters to barrage him with text messages pleading for Mary Jane’s life.” (Migrante Timeline, 30 Apr)
While government had given up, that afternoon of the 28th, Anis Hidayah, Executive Director of Migrant Care Indonesia met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, and was surprised that President Jokowi asked about Mary Jane’s case. “We are also talking about the issue of Mary Jane. We talked to him that actually Mary Jane is the victim of human trafficking that also happened with many Indonesia migrant workers abroad also facing death penalty.” (ABSCBNnews.com, 29 Apr)
On the same day that the government had given up, Mary Jane’s family protested her execution by refusing to be transported to the island where she was to be executed.
When it was confirmed that Mary Jane’s execution had been postponed, the government was surprised. The rest of us weren’t. Because when you are one with those who do not give up, those who continue to find ways to let the injustice be heard, you know that it is possible to change the course of history.
It is possible to win battles, if not win the war.
Trolls and injustice
But of course the ones who gave up on Mary Jane, those who did not care for her enough in the five years that she was in jail, but of course they’re the ones who will take credit. They’re the only ones who stand to gain from that task, what with 2016 elections and all.
Malacañang was the first one to refuse to give credit to others who had worked for Mary Jane’s cause. Its spokespersons gave us a choice: it’s either the President saved her, or prayers did.
That is a refusal to give credit to whom it was due: the local and international organizations that worked to save Mary Jane from death row; Veloso’s inmates in the Yogyakarta jail who donated money so that Mary Jane’s family could visit her for the first time in 2013; the Filipinos in Indonesia who had rallied behind Mary Jane’s cause; the family of Mary Jane that had asked since 2010 that the recruiter be arrested, which finally happened a day before execution, five years after; the Filipinos who signed the online petition to save Mary Jane; the Filipinos here and abroad and the various international migrant organizations that had rallied and gone on a vigil for Mary Jane’s cause.
But the Palace has Pinoy social media on its side, and there is no talking to people about who did what, and how much was done exactly. No one seems to be reading the timelines of Migrante International and the DFA critically, where one cannot help but question why the DFA’s got no sources for its data, while Migrante’s got sworn affidavits, a DFA timeline, and government press releases as sources.
The President has since said that he is not interested in taking credit for the postponement of Mary Jane’s execution (Philstar.com, 4 May), and yet he could not but declare that his government “did not create this problem” in response to Nanay Celia. She who dared declare her anger against government’s neglect of her daughter’s case.
That social media has pounced on Nanay Celia, and so many have become blind to the history of Mary Jane’s case, is of course expected. It is exactly what 2016 elections are about.
Smoke and mirrors. Now our politicos know that the way to sway Pinoy social media is to appeal to the inner anti-poor and matapobre in all of us. That was way too easy.
Also: painful to watch.