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Spare the ‘peddled,’ punish the peddlers

02:25 AM September 21, 2016

We believe it is politically palatable to plead for the life of one of the poor Filipinos whose ill fates made President Duterte say in exasperation, “My God, I hate drugs.” Is it not because of them that, precisely, we abhor the drug menace which we must rid society of (in the right way)?

Indeed, asking for clemency at the right time on top of cogent humanitarian grounds satisfies overwhelming appetites for both justice and mercy. Beyond divergent language and semantics, asking for compassion for the victimized is not in conflict with punishing the victimizer.

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We urge President Duterte not to forget who Mary Jane truly is: a poor, young mother of two young boys whose vulnerability was taken advantage of and exploited for the criminal purpose of drug smuggling, of which she had no knowledge. Despite being convicted and put on death row, she is in truth not the criminal but the victim—the “peddled,” not the peddler—not only of drug trafficking but also of human trafficking.

Simply put, the context is: Mary Jane is a victim of dire poverty, of lack of real opportunities for a decent job, of pernicious drug and human trafficking. The law may be the law, but it should not be blind or deaf to reality.

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At any rate, her final conviction, temporary reprieve and now the indefinite suspension of her execution, and the issue of possible clemency are matters all within the ambit of the laws of Indonesia, in the same way that the ongoing trial of the cases against her recruiters and the plea for clemency are also matters in accordance with the laws of the Philippines. They do not cancel each other out.

As a matter of fact, Indonesian and Philippine domestic laws, as well as international law, when duly applied, prohibit punishment and guarantee protection for trafficked persons like Mary Jane. There is thus nothing inconsistent with “following the law,” in pleading for clemency at the right juncture and through the proper channel for Mary Jane.

As the leader of this nation and as the paterfamilias of all Filipinos, President Duterte is expected to rise to his bounden duty and fight for her, and fight hard as he does for all victims of this transnational infection.

Instead of passive acquiescence towards her fate, Mary Jane needs compassion as a victim of the drug menace and we should run after the real perpetrators. We thus call on the President and government to not give up on Mary Jane, in the same way that the people refused to break their vigil at the time her life was almost snuffed out for a crime she did not

commit.

—EDRE U. OLALIA, secretary general, and Josalee S. Deinla, assistant secretary-general for education, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, nupl2007@gmail.com

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TAGS: drug war, drugs, extrajudicial killings, mary jane veloso, Rodrigo Duterte
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