POSTSCRIPT / May 3 2015 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Would credit-grabbers have taken the blame?

REVERSE the situation. Suppose the execution of drug trafficking convict Mary Jane Veloso went through last Wednesday in Indonesia.

As we watch the clawing for credit for the postponing of Veloso’s death by firing squad, we wonder if anybody would have taken the blame, the moral responsibility, had her execution pushed through.

We bet there would be the usual endless finger-pointing.

That is just the problem in our “iwas-pusoy” society: As they say, while success has many fathers, failure is an orphan.

The saving grace — the positive bottom line as we said here last Thursday — is that Veloso is still alive.

This migrant mother of two now has a chance to show that in the “kapit sa patalim” darkness where millions of Filipinos grope for extra pesos for their families, she was the victim and not the exploiter in that drugs case.

But such a defense is still a matter of proof. To justify the reprieve and possibly even her eventual acquittal, it has to be proved that (1) her recruiter Ma. Cristina Sergio put the 2.6 kilos of heroin in her bag and that (2) Veloso was unaware of it.

After Sergio turned herself in for police protection, that line was used as the urgent reason for the suspension of the death sentence. The administration of President Noynoy Aquino, claiming credit for the reprieve, must now prove those two points.

Veloso fate hangs on recruiter’s case

PROSECUTORS may charge Sergio with illegal recruitment, estafa, tax evasion and whatever else, but they have to prove that she (or somebody under her direction) was the one who put the heroin in the bag and that Veloso was unaware of it.

This is because her conviction was based on her being caught with concealed heroin — and her reprieve was prompted by the surrender of the recruiter accused of stashing the drug in her bag.

But suppose Sergio insists she did not? If that cannot be proved, how will Veloso’s reprieve stay? How long is the Indonesian government willing to wait for Sergio to break down?

The case has spawned a tangle of accusations and recrimination, even bringing up the fact that Veloso’s parents used to be workers at Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac owned by the President’s clan.

While the Luisita footnote may add a little color to the unfolding story, it is irrelevant. After all, the Aquino family was not the one who sent Veloso to go abroad or carry heroin.

Palace forgot about being ‘inclusive’

TRACING the root of the spreading fallout, we note that in the euphoria on that Wednesday when the reprieve was first reported, somebody in Malacañang forgot the buzzword “inclusive.”

Announcing the good news, the Palace stated on Day One: “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.”

“Such reprieve provides an opportunity for the perpetuation of her testimony that could shed light on how a criminal syndicate duped her into being an unwitting accomplice or courier in their human and drug trafficking activities.”

It was so easy for Malacañang have included everybody — the crowds praying in front of the Indonesian embassy and in other places, the groups of migrant workers, other officials doing their small part, the social media relentlessly campaigning, et cetera.

In allocating credit, the President as father of the country could have embraced all sectors from the very beginning – but did not. It was only later that he did.

Somebody forgot about being inclusive in happy moments. That lapse in that Day One statement was a costly omission.

It is significant that President Jokowi himself acknowledged that in those fateful hours before execution day he had been in close consultation with an Indonesian human rights group that, it appears, influenced him into granting the reprieve.

On the official level, it had to be our President talking to his counterpart. But it is clear that many individual and groups, not just President Aquino, had contributed to Jokowi’s decision.

It seems only the Indonesian president can clear the air by saying who or what made him do it.

Veloso a face of neglect or ingratitude?

EVEN before Veloso’s mother Celia and her family flew to Indonesia – reportedly at government expense – she was already talking about “sisingilin” (settle accounts with) the administration. She was bursting with a chestful of grievances.

Upon her return, sure enough, she unleashed a barrage of complaints generally about how the government has neglected the poor. From an arrival press conference she was next seen and heard speaking in the May 1 labor protest march off Malacañang.

Our impression is that we have not heard the last of Celia, nor does it seem her tirades will end at Malacañang and Hacienda Luisita.

But in fairness, Malacañang has not been totally zero on helping Veloso and similarly situated OFWs. Somebody should advise her not to cross the line and find herself being labelled and dismissed as an ingrate.

The Velosos of this labor-exporting county have legitimate grievances. However, many of us are not comfortable seeing Celia sinking into the arms of militant migrant workers.

Mary Jane and her mother Celia have given a face to Filipinos forced to go abroad seeking opportunities they cannot find in their home country. That face can be used to dramatize the failures of the Aquino administration in the jobs and poverty accounts.

With all that, winning a reprieve for Mary Jane has been devalued as a trophy to be displayed in the valedictory State of the Nation Address of the President on July 27.

Before the SONA, can the President extract an admission of the recruiter that she slipped the heroin in Mary Jane’s bag? Can he make peace with the Velosos and the workers’ group keeping her? Can he gain further accommodation from Jokowi on the Veloso case?

(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 3, 2015)

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