As one netizen said, “Let us give credit where credit is due”. So let us give credit to our dear President, His Excellency Benigno Simeon ‘Noynoy’ Aquino for the #SaveMaryJane campaign which would not have been possible without him and his government. Why?
1. The Aquino government did not give legal assistance to Mary Jane from the very start. According to her Indonesian lawyers, they were only hired to help Veloso when she was already convicted. Before, her only lawyer was one appointed by the Indonesian government, similar to our own Public Assistance Office (PAO).
2. The Aquino government did not provide any assistance to the same lawyers until last month. Right after Veloso was convicted, the Indonesian lawyers requested the Aquino government to investigate the illegal recruiters of Mary Jane. Instead, they only acted upon this request last month. The lawyers also asked for important documents from the Philippine Embassy (official translations of Mary Jane’s verdicts, a report by our PDEA) but these were only handed over to the lawyers last week.
3. The Aquino government only acted on the proposal of the Indonesian lawyers to turn Mary Jane into a witness against the drug syndicates literally in the last few hours before the delayed execution, despite the fact that the lawyers proposed this plan of action years ago.
4. In general, the Aquino government’s leadership of the Dept. of Foreign Affairs is incompetent, if not criminally negligent. This administration has the most number of Filipino OFWs executed abroad since the 1970s. This means that in a span of five years, more were executed than during the decades-long Marcos dictatorship or the almost-decade-long Arroyo administration.
In other words, had the Aquino administration done its job correctly from the very start, there would probably be no need for a #SaveMaryJane campaign since there is strong legal basis to not give her the death sentence, or even convict her. That’s why Noynoy Aquino, in a sense, is responsible for the #SaveMaryJane campaign!
5. On a more personal note, Noynoy Aquino’s family has also influenced the fate of Mary Jane Veloso. Like millions of others who fled the countryside into what they deemed was a better life abroad, her family was a family landless farmers in the Aquinos’ Hacienda Luisita, cheated out of land, decent wages, and a meaningful existence. Until this day, the Cojuangco-Aquinos have not distributed any land to their farm workers.
6. Finally, the Aquino administration did not want to rock the boat for fear of upsetting their Labor Export Policy. Instead of threatening their Jakarta counterpart the way that the governments of those who were supposed to be executed alongside Mary Jane, they meekly ‘gave up’.
But on a more serious note, real thanks should go to the Filipino people and even the peoples of many other nations who participated in pressuring the Indonesian government into showing compassion, and the Aquino government into taking action. Some who deserve special mentions are:
1. Migrante International – the sole genuine organization of Filipino OFWs worldwide, Migrante helped Mary Jane get better legal assistance, held up her family’s morale, and assisted in a hundred other ways, both big and small, all when the Dept. of Foreign Affairs and Aquino declared her case a ‘hopeless one’.
2. National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers – the lawyers provided by Migrante, they did more for Mary Jane in the short time they were her legal counsel, as compared to the DFA, particularly in providing very compelling legal arguments while the latter advised Veloso and her family to just keep quiet.
3. Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – popularly known as Bayan, the umbrella organization of peoples’ organizations in the Philippines, they mobilized many sectors to show their support for Mary Jane. Indonesian embassies and consulates were picketed, not only in Makati, but also in Hong Kong, U.S, and Canada. Bayan’s counterparts in Indonesia itself also rallied for the cause. A Bayan member group, the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR), initiated a Change.org petition which gathered more than a hundred thousand signatures.