No choice but to ‘break protocol’ for Mary Jane

By Inday Espina-Varona

Posted at Apr 30 2015 03:04 PM | Updated as of Apr 30 2015 11:04 PM

The personal touch has always been one of President Benigno Aquino’s greatest strengths. It has also been a major weakness of the Philippine’s incumbent Chief Executive.

When it moves him, Mr. Aquino can be dogged, emphatic, unleashing the Aquino charm. Conversely, the President comes off as unfeeling and uncaring, and prone to convoluted logic when put on the defensive. (Read, Mamasapano and the SAF 44).

In the temporary stay of execution granted Mary Jane Veloso, Mr. Aquino must be credited for reaching out to the Indonesian government and for suggesting that targeting big narcotic fishes, instead of little mules, would be in the best interests of both countries.

No less than Indonesia’s Attorney General confirmed that Veloso was spared after Aquino’s appeal that Veloso be used as a witness in the impending case against her recruiter Maria Kristina P. Sergio, also known as Mary Christine Gulles Pasadilla.

“There was a request from the Philippine president regarding the perpetrator who’s suspected of committing human trafficking and surrendered in the Philippines. Mary Jane is needed for her testimony,” Tony Spontana, the spokesman for Indonesia’s Attorney General, said in a text message to media.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) had remained silent following a personal appeal from the Philippine President during the ASEAN summit in Kuala Lumpur.

Based on a Reuters report, the reported “surrender” of Mary Jane’s alleged recruiter tipped the scales for the hapless Filipino woman. The Indonesian Cabinet secretary has also acknowledged that activists, who helped in Jokowi’s rise, played a major role in their President’s change of heart.

Keeping one’s eye of the big fish is, by the way, a strategy long practised by the best intelligence units — whether dealing with illegal drugs, human trafficking or terrorism. Sometimes, zeal gets the better of them and they find themselves abetting illegal, criminal actions while trying to hook the big fish. There are laws that ban such practices and, if caught, law enforcers may see their target walk.

Mr. Aquino’s aides note, rightly, that he was so adamant he broke protocol to save Mary Jane’s life. That means talking to officials other than Jokowi, his counterpart.

I’d laud him for that, too.

I’ll also point out that it was the least he could do.

Failing Mary Jane

You see, a big part of why Mary Jane found herself on the verge of execution was because the Philippine government had done nothing to follow up her claim that she was duped into carrying narcotics.

It started as a human trafficking case.

Cops were somber as they listened to narratives of Mary Jane's ordeal. Photo by author.

As many hapless Filipinos have experienced in the Middle East, Mary Jane was abused by an employer and forced back home. Bereft of any hope for a productive job, probably still in the process of paying off debts incurred in her first trip, she sought the help of Kristina Sergio.

When no job materialized in Malaysia, she was invited to try out her luck in Indonesia, given a new luggage, some new clothes.

Mary Jane’s Indonesian lawyers were not remiss in telling the Philippine government that going after Sergio was critical to saving their client. Mary Jane had sworn testimonies. Her family also coordinated with the government. They were told that making noise could endanger Mary Jane, told to trust in the system.

That is the context around President Aquino’s last-minute efforts to reach out to Indonesia.

He did his part at crunch time. But there can be no denying that the system, this government – his government – failed Mary Jane big time. (Read more here)

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.