Is Celia Veloso an ingrate for denying Pres. Aquino and the Philippine government credit for Mary Jane Veloso’s stay of execution and demanding accountability for what happened to her daughter?
To be honest, I was surprised by Nanay Celia’s strong statements upon her arrival from Indonesia last week. Most poor families I know give profuse thanks for the littlest things they get from government. In fact, they always end up overindebted in gratitude to politicians and public officials who often make us feel like we’re asking big favors whenever we demand proper and competent government action.
So why the harsh words from this poor, uneducated woman who normally would be over herself in thanking the President and every Tom, Dick and Harry for their efforts to save her daughter?
A timeline of Mary Jane’s ordeal would show that the government that supposedly saved her at the last minute was the same government that failed to provide her the proper support and assisstance when she needed it most – at the start of her ordeal. She was left to rely on a court-appointed, pro bono Indonesian public attorney for her defense and an incompetent interpreter to help her understand the court proceedings and air her side.
In fact, events would show that the legal tactic employed by the Philippine government in its last ditch effort to stay Mary Jane’s execution was already suggested by her Indonesian lawyers even prior to the first appeal for judicial review in 2011. But as usual, the various agencies that were tasked to go after her recruiter Kristina Sergio to build up a case of human and drug trafficking – the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Justice (DOJ), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) – did not act until April 2015 when Mary Jane was about to be executed. It was only with the help of volunteer lawyers from the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) that a complaint was filed against Sergio with the NBI, PDEA and theon April 16, 2015.
Nanay Celia must have felt like an unwanted basketball when she was following up Mary Jane’s case from 2010-2015. She was passed from office to office, dribbled, ridiculed, lied to and then warned not to publicize her daughter’s case as it might end up embarrasing the government for its failure to act. For three years she had shuttled back and forth to the DFA, PDEA and NBI asking what was being done to save her daughter and getting nothing. In 2013, it was even Mary Jane’s fellow inmates and jail guards that provided her money for her family to pay her a visit.
And then one day in February 2015 she was offered free tickets by DFA to Indonesia supposedly to visit her daughter only to learn that Mary Jane was already scheduled for execution and that the government, or at least the DFA, had practically threw in the towel.
Imagine the fierce determination of a mother trying to get her government to do more in saving her daughter from death and her frustration at not seeing any results.
And then came the media, Migrante International and the host of people’s organizations all over the globe that took up the cudgels with her. In a short span of time, the world would know about Mary Jane’s case and the injustice that had happened. A high profile campaign to save her life was quickly organized, pressuring the DFA and Malacañang to go the extra mile to save her and putting the Indonesian government on the defensive.
Perhaps like most of us, Nanay Celia is ignorant of the dynamics of international diplomacy and politics. What she knows is this: the appeals for clemency from Pres. Aquino were never granted and neither were the appeals for a judical review of her case. It was only at the last minute, when the public was clamoring for justice for Mary Jane, that the government started scrambling for her daughter’s life and the Indonesian president softened his stand.
In all her years of following up Mary Jane’s case, no effort was made by the DOJ, NBI or PEDEA to investigate or prosecute Sergio as suggested by the Indonesian lawyers. On the contrary she was repeatedly told that there was no basis for going after her daughter’s recruiter. In the end, Sergio herself voluntary went to the PNP out of fear since she had already been publicly exposed, thanks also to the media. Her reporting to the PNP provided the basis for Pres. Aquino’s last ditch effort and laid the ground for the Indonesian government to suspend her execution.
So what’s eating Nanay Celia? For sure she is elated and thankful that Mary Jane lives. But she has a score to settle with the government. If not for the intense public pressure generated by migrant rights advocates both here and abroad, she feels her daughter would have been another statistic in the long list of OFWs meted the death penalty.
This is not to say that Pres. Aquino and other government officials did nothing to save Mary Jane. Only that they did not do enough to save Nanay Celia and the Veloso family five years of pain and anguish seeing their loved one imprisoned and on the brink of death in a foreign land. And for that she feels betrayed.
Nanay Celia might be unaware of the nuances of her daughter’s predicament. She might be putting things too simply. She might be letting her anger and frustration cloud her better judgement. But at the end of the day, she is just a mother seeking accountability and justice for her daughter.#