POSTSCRIPT / April 30, 2015 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Mary Jane’s reprieve: Jostling for the credit

AMONG us grizzled Manila newsmen, there has been good-natured ribbing over the No. 2 broadsheet’s “killing” a smiling Mary Jane Veloso, a convicted drug courier, on its front page yesterday.

The banner blared across the front page: “Death came before dawn”. The mainer was supported by a secondary story saying “Aquino ‘last chance’ appeal, strategy fail”.

As we all learned the morning after, Veloso’s supposed execution by firing squad on a secluded Indonesian island was somewhat exaggerated. While the rest of the eight death convicts, all aliens, were executed as scheduled, Veloso was granted a reprieve.

That glaring editorial gaff was no big deal actually. With our notorious short span of attention, that “killer” banner will soon be forgotten, recalled only in journalism schools and in newsmen’s banter about their famous fumbles.

The bottom line is that Veloso, with a death sentence still hanging over her, is alive and fortified with a fresh opportunity to win an acquittal on review of her case. (The public should be advised that she has not been acquitted.)

Meanwhile, as we said on Twitter shortly after 2 a.m. right after the news broke out yesterday, “Mary Jane Veloso spared! Watch now the scramble for credit for the reprieve.”

Sure enough, soon came a cacophony of claims that Indonesian president Joko Widodo stayed her execution because of so-and-so, from United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, President Noynoy Aquino, to Vice President Jojo Binay, to the late strongman Sukarno’s daughter Megawati, et cetera.

Not to be left out were prayer brigades, organizations of women workers, labor groups and a parade of other organizations and influential personalities.

Justice, not diplomacy, saved Mary Jane

MAYBE it was all of the above. Include the man in the street who, finding identification with a lowly overseas worker like Veloso, must have muttered a prayer for her.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, Malacañang’s workhorse on such matters, pulled the case back to its cold technical moorings by officially telling a media briefing that Indonesia had “purely legal considerations” when it suspended Veloso’s execution.

It was like saying that, in fairness, the emerging facts of the case called for a reprieve or suspension of sentence.

It was not diplomacy, but justice, calling for a possibly innocent victim to be given the benefit of mitigating circumstances, or newly discovered facts, rather than putting her to death outright without further recourse.

We are not sure if that impersonal line of the foreign office detracts from the assiduous attempt of Palace trumpeters and the yellow brigades imbedded in media that Indonesian President Widodo merely heeded the pleas of his counterpart in Malacañang.

Pacquiao: Don’t seek credit. Thank God

BEFORE the squabble over credit assumes a proportion that would invite another of those Senate partisan inquiries, let us take the counsel of boxing great Manny Pacquiao, who talks more sense on the case than some high-flying officials.

Pausing from his workout in Las Vegas, the Pambansang Kamao expressed a desire to talk to Veloso – maybe after he disposes of Floyd Mayweather? — and counselled everybody back in Manila to quit squabbling over credit, and just thank the Lord.

Yes, everything is in the hands of the Lord. Amen. Even Pacquiao’s showdown this Sunday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Before I forget my reminder about our short span of attention, let me underscore what this affliction might inflict on the Veloso case.

As we understand it, the 53-year-old Indonesian president Jokowi (yes, Iqbal, he also has an alias) found reason to stay Veloso’s execution when the recruiter who had packed her off to Jakarta surrendered to the police and opened a possible new angle to the case.

(But it will only be Jokowi who can tell us why he acted differently on Veloso’s case, and thereby put to rest the quarrel over who should get the main credit among the do-gooders jostling for a reward.)

Pardon my skepticism, but my fear is that after the euphoria dies down and Veloso’s recruiter is subjected to the usual investigation (not to discount a Senate hearing and TROs galore), the noise and activity will trail off while attention shifts to something newer.

Objection aired to Bangsamoro creation

REACTING to my Postscript last Tuesday saying “… we need something like the Bangsamoro Basic Law, or a more constitutionally compliant version of it, to redress the decades of neglect of the indigenous peoples of Muslim Mindanao,” reader Alan Jose Martinez emailed:

“As a native of North Cotabato, I am convinced that no amount of legislation, autonomy, aid, help, ayuda, tulong will uplift the lot of the Bangsamoro people. I have observed firsthand, and at close range, how these people behave and am very familiar with their attitudes.

“They are simply not as hardworking as the people from Luzon and the Visayas. Basically, they are still in the stage of human development called hunter-gatherer.

“They should not be given money to buy more guns (because that is exactly what they will do with the BBL/BMJE budget). Their rebellion or fight for autonomy (secession, actually) should just be contained by the AFP/PNP. That can be done, because they are confined to well-defined and known areas. The money will be better used to buy hardware for the AFP/PNP.

“Development projects for the Bangsamoro areas should be implemented by national agencies, not by local leaders. The IRA to Bangsamoro towns and cities should be audited periodically. Since the ARMM was set up, 40-plus new municipalities have been created in the Moro areas (to avail of more IRA). Most, if not all, of this IRA money simply disappeared.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 30, 2015)

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