AS I begin to write this at 2:00AM, Wednesday morning, April 29, news reports confirm that Mary Jane Veloso has been granted a postponement on her execution.
Eight others were executed in Indonesia though. Two countries – Australia and The Netherlands – have recalled their ambassadors to Indonesia in protest against the scheduled execution of the nine convicted drug traffickers. Manny Pacquiao asked that Veloso be saved; Angelina Jolie asked about mercy.
Malacañang and the President told us earlier Wednesday that government had done everything it could to save Mary Jane. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had said that there was no more hope for Mary Jane.
Where lies hope
Nothing spells hope like a vigil of activists, students, workers, the every-Pinoy in front of the Indonesian Embassy, coming face-to-face with the local police who, for obvious reasons, are not – cannot be? – on the side of Veloso.
The line between the two sides is as thick as it comes; its complexity even more so.
In the course of discussions surrounding the case of Mary Jane, impoverished mother of two, Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW), victim of drug traffickers who lined her bag with heroine unbeknownst to her, drug possession convict in Indonesia and condemned to death, it became clear that government was not always gung-ho about saving Mary Jane. Neither was media, really.
Five years is a long long time. It surprises that it took this long for the call to save Mary Jane to gain traction. It’s classic too-late-the-hero stuff, isn’t it?
This can only shine a light on the people who have supported Mary Jane, who have stood by her since 2010. There’s Atty. Edre Olalia. There’s Migrante International, the only organization (in my book) that has consistently spoken for our OFWs, for every Mary Jane, long before it becomes “news-worthy,” long before government puts it under its urgent tasks list.
But of course so few of us listen to Migrante.
Listening to the DFA Spokesperson Charles Jose and Secretary Sonny Coloma today, Wednesday, the spin is clear.
DFA asserts that it was government’s efforts that had saved Mary Jane, especially since it is now being said that the stay of her execution is about making her a witness against “the big fish” of drug trafficking in the Philippine and Indonesia. (ANC, 29 Apr)
Secretary Coloma, asked about the Makabayan Bloc in Congress requesting for an OFW fund for all overseas workers who have pending legal cases, asserts that all government agencies are in place to help our OFWs. He says in so many words that the welfare of our OFWs is of primary importance to this government, and that the embassies and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) are there to help out our OFWs in need all over the world. (ANC, 29 Apr)
Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras is now spending a good amount of time explaining the timeline of the work the President and the Cabinet put into saving Mary Jane, by engaging in dialogue with Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia early this week. (ANC, 29 Apr)
This is all well and good: after all, we have been schooled in spin like no other since this Presidency, and one would like to think that we know how to pick the grain from the chaff.
But it behooves this government to explain what it has been doing since 2010, when Mary Jane was first arrested. It is important that the government explain itself with regard charges that it had neglected Mary Jane, coming not just from Migrante International, but also from Mary Jane’s family, and even from her Indonesian lawyers from Rudyantho & Partners. (Manila Standard Today, 29 April)
No to blindness
One understands how people might hold onto faith and religiosity, to notions of prayer and miracles. But this should not make us forgiving of those who have neglected Mary Jane, those who are neglecting our OFWs, those who push so many to leave nation because of poverty and need.
Hope should not keep us from anger. The reasons why Mary Jane’s story is a tragic one remain. The tragedy of Mary Jane is that of every OFW, imprisoned in poverty and need, dying slow and difficult deaths elsewhere in the world, in order to keep their families afloat in the Philippines.
Here, where government refuses to see the contradiction between the growing number of OFWs and its claim that its anti-poverty programs are a success.
Here, where our President was insensitive enough to pin some blame on Mary Jane, in that press conference in Malaysia on Tuesday. While narrating his conversation with the Foreign Minister of Indonesia about using Mary Jane as witness against the drug syndicates, the President said that this is only coming up as an option now because “It was very difficult to get <Mary Jane> to testify against all of these people previously.” (Inquirer.net, 28 April)
Hope floats, yes. But it need not mean being blind.