May 1, 2015

Migrante, Gabriela, Bayan, Kilusang Mayo Uno, and other organizations began their 72-hour vigil to save Mary Jane Veloso on April 26 in front of the Indonesian embassy. Macky Macaspac
In front of the Indonesian embassy, before the Philippine National Police began deploying hundreds of cops to "secure" the embassy. Macky Macaspac
Darling Veloso, sister of Mary Jane, in the vigil a day before flying to Jakarta to see her sister. KR Guda
Students do a die-in protest to resist police attempts to disperse the vigil during the second night. KR Guda
Straight from the airport
Lawyer Minerva Lopez (extreme right), speaks to reporters after arriving at the vigil. She stands with leaders of Migrante International, Bayan, KMU and Gabriela. KR Guda
Coni Ledesma, peace negotiator for the National Democratic Front, speaks during the second night of the vigil. KR Guda
Candles were lit, bells were rang, during the second day of the vigil. KR Guda
Candle-lighting to commence the 24-hour countdown until the supposed start of executions. KR Guda
KR Guda
Former Rep. Liza Maza, artist Maria Isabel Lopez, Mrs. Erlinda Cadapan (mother of disappeared activist Sherlyn), labor leaders Sammy Malunes and Lito Ustarez, among others, were among those who attended the vigil on the second day. KR Guda
Luis Jalandoni, chief peace negotiator for the National Democratic Front, speaks at the vigil in support of the campaign to save Veloso. KR Guda
A Migrante leader chastises cops out to disperse the vigil in front of the Indonesian embassy. KR Guda
Macky Macaspac
Foreign labor advocates carry placards in support of Mary Jane Veloso. Pher Pasion
Hundreds of cops in anti-riot gear were deployed by the Aquino administration to protect the Indonesian embassy. Pher Pasion
Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International, speaks to the crowd during the third and last day of vigil to save Mary Jane Veloso. Macky Macaspac
Candles were lit in front of the phalanx of cops. Macky Macaspac
Pher Pasion
Macky Macaspac
A protester openly weeps as Migrante announces that Mary Jane's impending execution was final and to be implemented soon. Macky Macaspac
Makati employees sign the freedom wall for Mary Jane. Pher Pasion
Supporters, many of them workers from the various offices and establishments in the business district of Makati, write and post messages of support and prayer for Mary Jane. Macky Macaspac
Pher Pasion
Pher Pasion
Pher Pasion
Garry Martinez (in green) of Migrante raises his arms as Mary Jane's Filipino lawyer Josalee Deinla hugs a colleague after Martinez announces Mary Jane's stay of execution, around 1:40 in the morning of April 29. Macky Macaspac
Joyful tears
Tinay Palabay of Karapatan hugs a Migrante member after the stay of execution was announced. Macky Macaspac
Jubilation after the announcement. Macky Macaspac
Progressive groups triumphantly march to Mendiola hours after Mary Jane's stay of execution to call on President Aquino to resign. Jaze Marco
Hours after Mary Jane's stay of execution, tears of joy continue to flow among her relatives, who arrived at the rally in Mendiola. Jaze Marco
Jaze Marco
Activists dance the One Billion Rising Revolution dance. Jaze Marco
Jaze Marco
Ikatlong araw ng vigil sa harap ng Indonesian embassy. <b>Pher Pasion</b>

Third and last vigil day in front of the Indonesian embassy. Pher Pasion

It was a uniquely amazing experience: thousands of people, anxiously awaiting the imminent execution of one of their own — Filipino migrant worker Mary Jane Veloso — and then being told that something unexpectedly good happened after all. She lived.

The Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, had, at literally the last minute, decided to stay Mary Jane’s execution. The reasons were not clear at that moment. There were few details then to make sense of it. Of what came out, though, it is known that past midnight of April 29, Mary Jane was on her way to the execution site, wearing immaculate white (her last statement, perhaps, reiterating her innocence), preferring not to be blindfolded and wanting to face her executioners, when she was told that the execution would not push through. She was spared, while the eight others continued to face the firing squad. That Mary Jane survived that moment at all — being told she would die soon, then spared at literally the last minute — was a testament to her nerves steeled in half a decade on death row.

Nerves were likewise tested during the vigil near the Indonesian embassy in Makati City. The thousands of people gathered there, most of them ordinary folk, many seasoned activists from various sectors, merely awaiting confirmation of the execution. At around 8 PM, Mary Jane’s family members and lawyers communicated that the Indonesian attorney-general had ruled out any possibility of  clemency. Philippine embassy officials told media that Mary Jane would be executed 9 PM, while Indonesian media reported that it was to happen at around 1 or 2 in the morning. When Migrante International’s chairperson, Garry Martinez, tearfully announced this, the activists wept, but they seethed, too, cursing at and tearing images of Widodo and Aquino, flinging their fists in the air like they had not done before.

Still, there was time, and, therefore, there was hope. There was a last-minute meeting between Widodo and Indonesian migrant groups. Church activists circulated the attorney-general’s number and urged those in vigil attendance to text the number. “Mercy is not weakness,” texted a few of them, referring to the attorney-general’s reported statement that granting clemency to Mary Jane and the others would be seen internationally as a sign of weakness and capitulation to outside pressure. Social media was abuzz with expressions of sadness, anger and pleads for mercy, while gatherings and vigils were also organized in many other areas within and outside the country.

They kept vigil as Mary Jane’s darkest hour neared. When the moment arrived — past 1 in the morning — the audience’s energy was mostly spent. Meanwhile, news from Indonesian media, picked up by Australian and other English-language media groups, began reporting that 8 of the 9 who were sentenced to die were executed, and that Mary Jane was granted a last-minute reprieve. By 1:40 AM, Martinez took the microphone and announced the good news. The crowd instantly erupted in cheers. People were weeping in joy, hugging each other, raising their fists in victory. “To the Department of Foreign Affairs (which earlier announced there was no hope for Mary Jane),” said youth leader Vencer Crisostomo of Anakbayan, “we say you are wrong! Mary Jane lives! We will bring you back home, Mary Jane. We will fight for it!”