Unintended consequences

In the past 48 hours I realize just how cynical I've become when it comes to what's happening around me.

Until yesterday, I haven't had a good idea of how the Mary Jane Veloso story actually went. All I knew was that she's in death row in Indonesia, and that our government is making a last ditch effort to save her.

All that time, I was thinking that those efforts will come for naught. Mary Jane will be shot in the middle of the night, a torch pointing towards her heart, helping the policemen tasked to execute her to aim properly. No matter what the Philippine government does - and not for lack of trying - nothing will change the mind of the Indonesian government. After all, in their eyes, she still violated their laws.

But, just like in a soap opera, the stakes got higher. A date for execution has been set. Efforts really went into full swing. Time was, oddly, on our side, as Noynoy Aquino found himself at the ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur, and with it, a chance to appeal Mary Jane's case to his Indonesian counterpart, Joko Widodo. And he did. And it looked like there was, well, hope, whatever that means in this context. Joko was sympathetic, it was claimed, but ultimately he said there was no reason to halt her execution.

The pressure piled up. Suddenly all these political figures from my side of the world have come out to make the same appeal. A funnier bit was Neri Colmenares volunteering Manny Pacquiao to pretty much look into it. We were desperate, yes, but, well, we were desperate.

Why has nobody acted on this five years ago, when she was first arrested? people ask.

Well, I'm sure people were working behind the scenes. It just didn't warrant all this attention because, you know, it just didn't seem so dramatic.

So it's the media's fault?

Perhaps, because they treat their newscasts the same way they treat their soap operas: grand, glossy, clichéd, hackneyed.

But they wouldn't pay attention to it if nobody does, right?

I don't know. Her crying sons? Her youngest didn't even grow up with her around, as she was in prison all that time!

The politicians? It's close to 2016, after all.

Perhaps, because Mary Jane's plight is happening close enough to the elections that anyone can invoke it and use it as proof of whatever they want to prove?

Right, these politicians finally have a reason to make a big fuss out of this. Because it's almost 2016, and they need all the brownie points.


Yes, I know that there have definitely been efforts behind the scenes. I said that earlier. Yes, I understand that there'd be more attention to this than before because there's a deadline and it's coming close. And yet I can't help but entertain the thought, at least, that there's something more selfish to this.

Why the sudden change of heart? Ostensibly because the recruiter Mary Jane accused of setting her up voluntarily turned herself in to Nueva Ecija police. There will be an investigation, and the Indonesians wanted to see where that will lead. Or maybe it's because the pressure is just too much, the same way these highly-publicized Hail Mary passes are possibly politically motivated - Joko Widodo's also facing criticism at home over Mary Jane, so he had to renege at the very last minute. Eight people were executed, including two Australians who exerted a lot of pressure for a good decade, but it was Mary Jane, a hapless woman who just wanted to earn for her kids, who was given a free pass.

Well, yes, there's the human trafficking angle, but again, I can't help but entertain the thought.

Now the burden shifts to the Philippine government - our government, our government whose definition of justice is spotty at best. Now it's up to us to compel Indonesia to remove Mary Jane from death row. Conveniently, we have the recruiter in police custody. What will happen to her? Will she be steamrolled because she's the bad guy in this story - she deserves to be put in jail, right? Maybe she should be the one shot in the heart in the middle of the night, right? And when that happens, we have justice! We really saved Mary Jane! We did a good job! Hear that? We did a good job.

Of course, the basic facts still remain. Mary Jane is still set to die. She is still guilty according to the Indonesian government. She still lives away from her family. And while we celebrate, or at least breathe a sigh of relief, we cannot be sure that the Philippine government will not drop the ball on this one.

Maybe they won't.

But maybe they will.


Maybe I'm pessimistic. Maybe I'm now just assuming the worst from our leaders every time. I know I'm capable of better than this, but, again, I can't help but entertain the thought. And that thought, it seems more plausible, because it's easier to grasp. Mary Jane, good. Recruiter, bad. Live, good. Die, bad. Philippines, good. Indonesia, bad. And I'm a guy who likes my nuances. But it seems deciphering these nuances get tiring because, one, it's too complicated, and two, there's no incentive for caring. And we're left with people who try their best to paint this as a victory for Noynoy Aquino.

This is perhaps not the kind of hope we were supposed to have.

And your responses...

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