TURNING POINT: Of Ingratitude and Selective Perception

NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews/04 May) — For about a week, the Filipinos were one and united on Mary Jane Veloso.

They prayed, joined rallies, signed petitions and exerted all other efforts to save the convicted drug mule in Indonesia from the firing squad.

The Indonesians themselves were not left behind. Having their own share of women who had been duped, exploited and abused as migrant workers in the Middle East, they considered Mary Jane as their own and strongly appealed to their government for understanding and compassion. They demonstrated in Jakarta’s streets and used the internet exhaustively to change the mind of their president on the fate of the Filipina convict.

The Philippine government was no less determined in seeking clemency for the doomed migrant worker in the diplomatic front. The vice president of the Republic was dispatched to Indonesia to plead for her life. He returned home, however, empty-handed. He thereby urged the faithful to pray unceasing and hard for a miracle.

At the sidelines of the recently held ASEAN Summit in Malaysia, President Benigno Aquino III grabbed the opportunity of talking to Indonesian President Joko Widodo on the plight of Mary Jane. The prospect of clemency appeared dark though as the Indon leader was hard bent on enforcing his country’s stringent law on illegal drugs. Nonetheless, the meeting with Aquino and the growing domestic pressure on the issue right in his own front yard may have likely tipped the balance of President Widodo’s thought on the Filipina convict.

The surrender to Philippine authorities of Veloso’s alleged recruiter, Ms. Maria Kristina Sergio, alias Christine Pasadilla, a few hours before the former’s scheduled execution gave a saving twist to the fate of the convict. The unexpected development allowed President Aquino to make a last ditch appeal to President Widodo. Aquino requested the Indonesian president to postpone Veloso’s execution so she could be made a witness in prosecuting human and drug trafficking syndicates.

Mary Jane was given a last minute reprieve and escaped the bullets.


The country’s exultation, however, over the extended lease on the life of Mary Jane was short-lived. It was replaced with anger and indignation everywhere arising from the irresponsible, insensitive and virulent attack that the mother of the convict, Mrs. Celia Veloso, hurled at the government upon the Velosos’ arrival in Manila from Indonesia.

Mrs. Veloso claimed that the government had not exerted enough effort from the beginning to improve the circumstances of her daughter; that she was not given able assistance to escape death penalty. She also castigated President Aquino for having accordingly tricked them, for usurping the credit and honor due to others for saving Mary Jane from the firing squad. Not contented with the unfounded harangue, she threatened the government with a showdown in time to come: “Humanda kayo. Nandito kami para lumaban. Haharapin namin kayo.”

I flinched in disbelief, pain and disappointment when I saw Celia Veloso making those hard and toxic statements against the government and President Aquino on TV. What could have detached this woman from truth on the intervention of the government in helping her family and their daughter?

How could she easily dismiss the effort of President Aquino to spare her daughter from the firing squad at the dying minutes of the scheduled execution?

No less than Indonesian President Joko Widodo himself admitted that his decision to grant Mary Jane a stay of execution sprung from the Indonesian government’s desire to cooperate with the ongoing cases in the Philippines which has bearing on Veloso’s plight. As reported by CNN, Widodo accordingly declared that “There was this letter from the Philippine government saying that there is a legal process related to human trafficking there. So we need to respect the legal process.”

Yet Celia Veloso insisted that it is the effort of the people not of Aquino that saved Mary Jane.

Did Veloso really think that the rallies, the prayer vigils, the petitions of her handlers, the Migrante International and Kilusang Mayo Uno, saved her daughter from imminent death without the official intercession of President Aquino?

I do not know what her handlers had stuffed in her brains that made Celia Veloso behave like a mad cow. One thing is certain though at the moment: all militant groups in the country have one agenda in common – to bring the Aquino government down and replace the president apparently with a thief who believes in prayers and miracles.

Their evil strategy, however, had boomeranged. Bruised and hurt by the ingratitude of the Veloso family, the Filipino people, this time, did not task and abandon but have instead closed ranks with the government.


There are people who only read, listen and accept information that coincides with and sustains their views and outlook in life. This is the phenomenon of selective perception.

They won’t care about logic, faultless argument, verifiable facts or unassailable truth if the same doesn’t jibe with what they believe or what they have already decided to be right and correct.

The concept of selective perception posits that any information that contradicts or is opposed to what a person holds dear, sacred or infallible would create an imbalance in his system.

An imbalance is stressful, uncomfortable. It can, in fact, be painful. Anything, therefore, that disturbs the balance of a person is avoided or ignored, fought or resisted.

In fighting or resisting that which is disturbing, a person may resort to lies and falsehood, even to violence, if only to restore balance. This is what impels the behavior of bigots and demagogues. And biases and prejudices are being fed, nurtured and sustained this way.


The phenomenon of selective perception operates strongly in the realm of religion and politics. It is difficult to change, for instance, the mind of major religious groups about what they believe, or are told to believe.

For the unenlightened Christians, the only good Moro is a dead Moro. No more, no less.

For Muslim extremists, a non-believer of Islam is an infidel and is not deserving of life and mercy. The only way to deal with infidels is to crush and destroy them.

In this country, the debate on the Reproductive Health Bill divided the nation on the basis of religious dogmas not so much on the merits of the legislation.

In the US, highly educated but diehard Republicans see only all the wrong things about the Democrat Obama and horribly believe that the charismatic President is the ultimate personification of evil.

In the search for truth and justice on the Mamasapano incident, selective perception and intolerance pervaded the discussions. Those who sympathized and played heroes for the families of the Fallen 44 would not care for the facts and the circumstances of the incident. They considered all of Bangsamoro as treacherous and unreliable and are not worthy of self-governance. For them, the only option to deal with the traitors is to knock them down to submission by an all-out war.

For this reason, myopic politicians and demagogues in Congress, the like of Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, swarmed and attacked the Basic Bangsamoro Law with the intent to kill. They claimed that the BBL is a sellout to the Moros. The Philippine Peace Panel negotiators are accused thus as traitors for betraying their principal, the Republic, in yielding to the whims of the MILF.

The bigots in Congress do not listen to reason or the narratives of their victims whether from within the government or from the MILF. For them, the chief MILF negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, had no business negotiating for peace with the government. Not only because to date he has remained an armed rebel but also for years he has used an alias in dealing with the government.

Who do these guys expect to meet in a ceasefire talk or in a peace negotiation table, a gentleman from a civil society organization?

And are they not aware that at one time the Philippine Republic had a president who signed official documents and represented the country in global arena using an alias? And that the Senate, at one time or another, has about half a dozen members who use aliases in the performance of the official functions? (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D, is a former professor and the first chancellor of the Mindanao State University at Naawan.)