MANILA — The temporary reprieve of Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina who was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death in Indonesia, showcased the Filipinos’ faith in miracles, and in each other.
Protest and prayer vigils for Mary Jane – in front of the Indonesian embassy in Makati city and in other parts of the country and the world became a triumph of the power of collective action, not just on the streets, but also in cyberspace.
On the day of Mary Jane’s scheduled execution on April 28, up to 182,000 signatures were gathered by the online petition that appealed to President Joko Widodo for “clemency and pardon” for Mary Jane.
The petition, “Indonesian Pres. Joko Widodo @jokowi_do2: Save the life of human trafficking victim Mary Jane Veloso,” was started on Change.org by the Church Task Force to Save the Life of Mary Jane Veloso, an alliance of concerned churches.
On April 28, the religious sisters of the Jakarta Social Action Commission directly delivered to President Widodo a printed copy of the petition, containing 40,000 signatures with 900 pages. The petition was signed not only by Filipinos but also by citizens around the world.
As of this writing, the petition has reached more than 311,000 signatories.
“It holds the record for being the fastest growing petition on Change.org Philippines ever,” said Christine Roque, a senior campaigner of Change.org Philippines.
The Promotion for Church Peoples’ Response (PCPR) together with allied churches held a liturgical thanksgiving at St. Martin de Porres hall, Sto. Domingo church in Quezon City on May 6, Wednesday, to thank everyone who supported the petition.
Roque said the petition was started on April 23, Thursday and the next day, it only had 100 signatures. But when Sunday, April 26 came, signatories to the petition had reached 30,000, making it to the top 10 most signed petition in the world. Roque added that the petition was also translated to French and Italian and was also distributed to the United Kingdom.
“Almost 1,000 petitions are made every day around the world, so for it to be on the top 10 was really significant because it means that the campaign to save Mary Jane was global,” Roque stated.
Aside from the petition, a twitter storm also took place on April 26, as the signatories of the petition barraged the twitter account of President Widodo with tweets of #SaveMaryJane.
Roque said that the petition proves that it’s really worth fighting for someone’s life up to the last minute. “A small petition in the Philippines became international and showed that the whole world sympathizes with Mary Jane,” said Roque.
Nardy Sabino of PCPR was so glad that the petition was supported by people from different countries because it added to the international pressure on President Widodo.
“For us (PCPR), we only contributed a little because we only started the petition. The petition became successful because of the people who believe that Mary Jane is innocent; we owe it to them,” Sabino stated.
Norma Dollaga of Simbahan para sa Bayan, a part of Church Task Force, said their organization put up signature-gathering posts in two churches, and after the mass they encouraged everyone to sign the petition.
“What happened to Mary Jane stirred the churches to make people realize the teachings of the church: Love thy neighbor,” Dollaga said, adding that she was grateful to be a part of the petition.
Ofelia Cantor of Ecumenical Bishops Forum and Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform said the image that kept playing in her head was that of Mary Jane’s two sons, that’s why supporting Veloso was a big challenge for her.
“How can we let an innocent woman die through firing squad for a crime she unwillingly committed,” Cantor stated.
She said she was one of those who bombarded the number of HM Prasetyo, the Attorney General of Indonesia, with text messages.
“I told him in my text message: ’You only have a few remaining minutes to open up your mind. You choose, do you want to be remembered as an evil man who pushed through with the execution, or do you want to be remembered forever by the Filipino people as the one who spared Mary Jane’s life,” Cantor said.
Like many Filipinos sympathetic to Mary Jane, Cantor is grateful that the signatures, text messages, prayers, and hopeless optimism all paid off. (bulatlat.com)