And Justice For All – The Mary Jane Veloso Case
By N Mark Castro
Close your eyes and picture Indah.
Picture Indah living a provincial life in one of the thousands of islands in Indonesia. She has two young boys that has become the source of her life, her happiness.
She was abandoned by her husband, her children abandoned by their father.
She was dirt poor.
She wasn’t exactly pretty.
She’s one of many living a life under $2 a day.
She prays to her God, just like most everyone else, and worried incessantly about the fate of her young boys, just like most mothers.
One day, a fellow village woman approached her and other women and offered them a job.
Come fly with me to Malaysia and I will give you a job.
Indah felt like the heavens opened for her and God, in His Infinite Wisdom, has chosen her to secure a better life for her children.
She packed her bags, kissed her children goodbye, ensured that her mother would take care of her children, and flew to a land she had never seen before, in a flying plane she could only dream of, to a job she which she felt was God’s gift.
Upon arrival in Malaysia, she was told to wait for a few days in a cheap hotel. She did not move. She did not leave her place. She was excited to start her job. And waited for further instructions.
Those instructions came a few days later: “The job is not here but in the Philippines,” she was told, “deliver this bag to the Philippines and you will be given $3,000.”
The amount of money staggered her. Barely finishing elementary, she couldn’t even begin to calculate her fortune. She was in tears. She kissed her fellow village woman and prayed to God for the blessings that awaited her in the Philippines. Like a dutiful and obedient woman, she packed her bags and flew to the Philippines to deliver her package, a beautiful island much like hers, in a flying plane that she was now taking twice in her lifetime, for a job which she felt was God’s gift.
As soon as she landed in the Philippines, she was processed in immigration and proceeded to customs.
That’s when her life turned into a manner even Kafka refused to be associated.
The luggage she was told to carry had drugs sown into it. She was caught carrying 2.6 kg of heroin. She was arrested. She was incarcerated. She spent lonely days and restless nights inside the jail fearing for her children.
She knew no one and no one knew her. She did not know the language and they did not know her language.
The police gave her a translator, a student, to help her explain her situation so that she may understand the gravity of her crime.
The police did not bother to cooperate with her to find out who would receive her luggage. The police did not bother to coordinate with Malaysian authorities to find out who sent her here. The police did not bother to go after the bigger fish which, apparently, a common modus operandi of drug traffickers.
The police did not bother.
Instead, they processed her and coordinated with the prosecutors. The prosecutors did not bother to find more about her case. The prosecutors did not bother to find more about the recipient of her luggage. The prosecutors did not bother to find that she was twice the victim here. The prosecutors did not bother.
Indah’s embassy finally got wind of her case and went on to see her. They provided all the assistance they could give.
The prosecutors demanded for the fullest application of the law in front of the judge. The judge did not bother to appreciate the merits of the case. The judge did not bother to find out who was the real brains behind this consistent violations. The judge did not bother to find out the consistency by which these crimes have occurred. The judge did not bother.
Instead, the judge applied the fullest extent of the law.
Indah’s life, just like that, disappeared before her eyes.
Towering men that did not want to bother decided her fate in a language she could not understand. Towering men that did not want to bother simply told her that they would kill her from delivering a luggage she never knew had drugs sown into it. Towering men that did not want to bother told her that her children would be orphans.
All Indah could do was cry and ask God why.
On the National Day of Celebrating Women, prison authorities decided to dress her up in their own traditional way and paraded her before the media and the audience.
Here was Indah, from another land, wearing our traditional costume to celebrate women. We will kill her for delivering luggage with drugs sown into it. She did not know what she had. We did not care who would receive it. We did not care who sent her. That’s the extent of our efforts in our war against drugs.
In a few days, Indah will be executed for the entire known and civilized world to see that you cannot fuck with the Republic of the Philippines. Our laws do not care who you are.
But if you are powerful, we will release you. If you are well-connected, we will be gentle. If you are a terrorist and have killed people, we will pardon you. If you stole the money paid by the hardworking people of the land as tax to the government, we will shorten your punishment. If you ordered the murder of a chief justice but you’re the son of a former president, we will shorten your punishment. If you’re caught killing people in a drug-related accident, we will apply the lightest penalty of the law. If you’re caught with drugs but is the granddaughter of a former president, we will rehabilitate you.
Our court has convicted and incarcerated old people for stealing a banana. Our court has convicted and incarcerated young boys for stealing slippers and putting them inside the company of murderers. Our court has convicted
Our court has decided.
Never mind if the Final Decision of Supreme Court, supposedly the highest court in the land, can be ignored for years by a mere mayor and refused to be implemented despite two presidents.
Our court has decided. Its integrity cannot be questioned even if judges have been caught selling their decisions, even if judges have refused to accept evidence based on international standards.
We will kill Indah. That is Justice. That is the Law.
We do not care if you threaten us. We will not budge. We will show no mercy. We do not care if your entire Javanese people are merely obedient people the way Filipino maids are.
You can get a thousand of our famously qualified but obedient maids, promise to pay them money, and yet put drugs in their bags and spread them across the world to be caught and executed.
That is their fate for being subservient and obedient.
But there will be no mercy.
Close your eyes, picture her children, picture Indah’s miserable life, picture how she was paraded in front of media and audience, picture how she could not understand the language of the people around her that decided to kill her.
Then open your eyes and call her Mary Jane Veloso.