Miracle of her reprieve | Inquirer Opinion
Editorial

Miracle of her reprieve

/ 01:54 AM April 30, 2015

The 1995 execution of Flor Contemplacion in Singapore taught us the depth of the grievances kept in the hearts of overseas Filipino workers and the power of their collective voices when raised in protest. The 2015 reprieve of Mary Jane Veloso in Indonesia shows us why it is important to secure justice for everyone at home if we want to demand justice for our OFWs.

What saved the day for Mary Jane in the wee hours of Wednesday, April 29, was the prospect that she would serve as prosecution witness to expose the illegal recruitment ring that had victimized her. On Tuesday the suspected recruiter Ma. Kristina Sergio and her live-in partner Julius Lacanilao faced the Nueva Ecija police for charges of illegal recruitment, human trafficking and estafa filed at the Department of Justice. This was what saved Mary Jane: that the possibility that allowing her to live and testify, rather than snuffing out her life, was the way forward.

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It also enabled Indonesia, as a coequal sovereign of the Philippines with its own legal system, to accommodate President Aquino’s personal request to Indonesian President Joko Widodo to spare Mary Jane’s life. In other words, even as Filipinos circle the wagons and protect our own, we must first understand that other countries have their own judicial systems and, however humanitarian and just our appeals, they can only do so much by way of accommodation. Mary Jane as prosecution witness allowed Indonesia to do just that. To relent on punishing drug traffickers might be seen as a weakening of its domestic resolve to combat drugs, but to relent because Mary Jane would help convict traffickers would in fact help punish the masterminds and weaken the recruitment of drug mules.

It is the Filipinos’ own quest for justice for Mary Jane that enabled Indonesia to grant her the temporary—and hopefully permanent—reprieve under its laws.

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This only shows why it is so important to ensure that the Philippine justice system works. Already it is cause for wonder why the traffickers came into government custody only on Tuesday. No, they were not under arrest. They had presented themselves voluntarily to the police because they feared for their lives. Had they not “surrendered” to the authorities, how could Mary Jane’s life been saved?

Even now, it seems that the authorities are unsure what to do with Sergio and Lacanilao. The police, having missed their chance to hunt down the suspects and having providentially “found” them on a silver platter, must proceed to interrogate, charge and arrest the culprits.

The Philippines needs to do this forthwith if only to assure Indonesia that it is true to its word. It needs to match the bold decision taken by Indonesia’s Attorney General with equally strong prosecutorial initiatives. Otherwise, the Philippines will weaken the chances that Mary Jane’s temporary reprieve can become permanent. Indeed, anything short of a solid conviction of the suspected traffickers and their cohorts will keep her in constant danger of execution.

The Philippines must also ensure that Indonesia’s embassy in Manila is fully apprised of its dogged prosecution efforts. In most situations involving the abuse of migrant workers, the two countries have typically been in the same boat. Filipino and Indonesian maids share similar agonies, except in Mary Jane’s case. The Philippines must affirm solidarity with Indonesia for the protection of migrant workers and the shared goal of stemming the drug trade in the two countries.

Finally, those Filipinos who periodically suggest that the death penalty be revived should realize that by abolishing capital punishment, the Philippines has actually strengthened its hand in international negotiations and its moral position with like-minded states that might be inclined to find common cause with OFW concerns. The government also needs to ensure that everyone in the country, whether Filipino or foreigner, receives the same measure of justice.

The Philippines must abandon the insular thinking that this is its turf and lesser justice can be given to non-Filipinos. There is no better time to appreciate the Golden Rule than at this time of desperation. It should affirm the Golden Rule as a fundamental principle of fair play and justice not only for OFWs but for everyone at home.

The Inquirer joins the nation and the family of Mary Jane Veloso in rejoicing at the miracle of her reprieve, and in the collective hope that she will eventually win her life back.

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TAGS: Death Row, drug mules, drugs, Flor Contemplacion, Indonesia, mary jane veloso, ofws, reprieve, Singapore
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