We get it. Religion plays a significant role in the daily lives of most Filipinos. Many of our values and beliefs are rooted in the Catholic faith, where we turn to prayer in the hope of finding a solution to our most difficult problems or situations. We pray for ‘miracles.’ (Technically, in the Roman Catholic faith, only The Vatican — through the Miracle Commission –can certify and declare any claim of a ‘miracle’ to be an actual miracle).
When news of the impending execution of Filipina Mary Jane Veloso reached the Philippines, many resorted to prayer, prayer rallies and vigils – hoping that through a miracle of sorts, the life of the convicted drug smuggler would be spared by the Indonesian government.
At the eleventh hour, while eight other drug convicts faced the firing squad, a flurry of calls and communication among Indonesian officials – all the way up to President Joko Widodo, spared Veloso from execution.
Till that moment, the Filipinos were hoping against hope. Shortly before the scheduled execution, it was reported that Widodo, despite a personal plea from Philippine President Noynoy Aquino, would not stop to end the life of the Filipina.
Veloso’s family made their final visit. Mary Jane, along with the other convicts, were transported to the execution site. Even the most devout of Filipinos went to bed expecting to wake up the next morning to the news of Mary Jane’s death. The Philippine media all but printed their morning headlines in anticipation of the execution by dawn. “Death came before dawn,” proclaimed the front page headline of a major daily, the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
As expected, news that Mary Jane was spared from execution spread like wildfire in the Philippines, as it did across the globe. The hashtag, #MaryJaneLives, dominated posts and tweets on social media.
Everyone was proclaiming a “miracle,” giving credit to the prayers and vigils (and maybe even some novenas) that led to the Indonesian government’s change of heart.
The news was sketchy at first. But little by little, the facts became available.
Now we know that by the admission of a ranking Indonesian official, a last-minute plea by President Aquino, who reportedly broke protocol to speak directly to the Indonesian foreign minister, set things in motion.
Moments before Aquino’s final plea, something happened in the province of Nueva Ecija in the Philippines. The alleged recruiter of Veloso surrendered to authorities, perhaps not necessarily to help stop the execution, but because she – Maria Kristina Sergio – sought police assistance for the reasons that she had been receiving death threats.
The National Bureau of Investigation had earlier filed illegal recruitment, human trafficking, and estafa charges against Sergio and two others in connection with Veloso’s case. During her investigation and Indonesian trial, Veloso argued that Sergio duped her into unknowingly smuggling 2.6 kilograms of heroin into Indonesia.
It is assumed that this surrender was brought up by Aquino in his last appeal to spare Veloso’s life.
So, was there a miracle?
Perhaps, an angel appeared in Sergio’s dream and asked her to surrender to police? Perhaps, Aquino’s Christian God talked to Widodo’s Allah, prompting a last-minute change of heart on the part of the Indonesian president?
We didn’t think so.
Let’s stop calling this a miracle. Let The Vatican make that determination.
It is not often that we say positive things about Aquino, but in all fairness, he gets major credit for this one. But it is also a credit to the persistent communication mechanism employed by Philippine officials – in Manila as well as Jakarta – and the police authorities in Nueva Ecija. A few hours of communication delay wouldn’t have saved Veloso’s life.
Indonesian migrant workers whose lives and situations in foreign countries are very parallel to that of Veloso and other Filipino overseas workers, also seemed to have swayed the Indonesian government, after they joined the chorus calling for re-consideration in the case of Mary Jane.
We are not criticizing those who believe in miracles. We are merely stating that we should give credit where credit is due.
By the way, the story doesn’t end here. It is just the beginning of another phase in the case of Mary Jane.