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Mary Jane Veloso’s Execution Will Only Highlight the Dysfunction of Filipino Society

n the 28th of April, the Indonesian government will execute Filipina Mary Jane Veloso by firing squad. For this luckless young woman, it will be the culmination of a life that from the beginning, had been dealt a losing hand.

First and foremost, she was born a Filipino. In a country where according to an Asian Development Bank (ADB) study, 18 million live on 50 pesos or less a day, her chances of being born into poverty were a lot greater than if she was born in Europe or North America—or even in other countries in Southeast Asia.

Growing up poor in Nueva Ecija, the youngest of five siblings, Veloso only made it to her first year of high school before dropping out and marrying at 17. She had two children before she and her husband separated.

With little education, and even more limited resources, in a country that forces its citizens to fend for themselves and find work anywhere in the world they can, Veloso ended up in Dubai, working as a maid. She did not complete her two-year employment contract, but promptly returned home after she was almost sexually assaulted.

To pile on to her misfortunes, a fellow Filipina and townmate of Veloso, a woman by the name of “Christine,” offered her a job as a domestic helper in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. This woman even gave Veloso an advance of $500 plus a brand-new piece of luggage to take with her on her trip. Hidden within the unusually heavy bag’s lining were 2.6 kilograms of heroin.

After her arrest, Christine warned Veloso’s family from seeking help from Philippine authorities. She told them the syndicate would kill them off one by one if they did. Christine continued living openly in Cabanatuan. It was only in late March, after Veloso’s plight gained widespread media attention that Christine packed-up her belongings and left.

Veloso’s trial in Indonesian court was nothing short of a travesty of justice. The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), a group accredited by the United Nations, has written to Indonesian President Joko Widodo. In the letter, IADL president Jeanne Mirrer states “We are gravely concerned about her case because of the numerous reported violations of the Veloso’s human rights, including the right to a fair trial and due process as guaranteed under both domestic and international law.”

The Philippine government, through its embassy in Indonesia must surely have been informed of Mary Jane Veloso’s arrest by Indonesian officials in 2010. Unfortunately, due to incompetence or apathy, or both—typical of most Philippine government (and non-government) bureaucracies—Veloso was left to fend for herself in what many international legal experts insist was an unfair trial.

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) like Veloso are the true heroes of the Philippine economy. They have been able to achieve what lackadaisical get-rich-quick-oriented Filipino businessmen would never have been able to. And for the most part, they did it without government help. However, despite appearing pro-OFW, according to the Research group IBON the Aquino administration had been reducing their budget for OFWs since 2011. IBON points out that the budgets of the three main government agencies involved with Filipinos overseas i.e., “Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), shrank from Php13.3 billion in 2011 to Php 12.7 billion in 2014.” This despite the continually increasing billions of dollars in foreign remittances from OFWs around the globe.

Whatever the final outcome of Mary Jane Veloso’s travails is to be. We all are collectively to blame for having failed her. Whether it was what we did or what we failed to do, we Filipinos are in one way or another responsible for what has happened. We delude ourselves into believing we are an empathic, caring society when in fact we are the exact opposite. We think only of ourselves and those close to us, and shut everyone else out. We are highly distrustful of one another and strongly believe that rules and regulations are for other people to follow, but not for us. We act overtly religious and firmly believe we will go to Heaven, but we’ll most likely all end up in Hell. Where it is doubtful we’ll see Mary Jane. Published 4/25/2015


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