A Testimony on a Mother’s True Grit : An Open Letter to Nanay Celia Veloso


A Testimony on a Mother’s True Grit : An Open Letter to Nanay Celia Veloso

Dear Nanay Celia,

You have been at the center of the maelstrom on the fate of your youngest child Mary Jane. You have wept before the cameras and in public spaces, tirelessly telling your story over and over again, pleading for her life and recalling in painful detail how she and your family have suffered and been neglected for years.

From the time that you learned of Mary Jane’s arrest, you have shuttled from Talavera to Manila aboard borrowed jeepneys to seek help from the government.

They told you, at first, that Mary Jane’s execution would be certain, and later denied that she had been convicted and put on death row. Your phone calls were frequently unanswered and rarely returned. Their promises were undelivered. Until recently, your requests that Mary Jane’s recruiter be investigated were ignored.

Mary Jane faced trial unaided by a lawyer and a competent interpreter. She languished for years on death row, with almost four years passing from the time her conviction was affirmed by the highest court until another appeal was brought in her behalf.

Before leaving for your first visit to Mary Jane, you were insulted and told you did not have the means, but you were able to do so out of the kindness of her friends in prison. Most of the time, news of Mary Jane came from Mary Jane herself.

As Mary Jane’s execution became imminent, you broke your silence. You bared everything about your family and took us back to your years of hard labor—Tatay Cesar harvesting sugarcane in Hacienda Luisita and Mary Jane selling wares from house to house.

You said you did not want her to leave because you did not want a repeat of her previous experience as a housemaid in Dubai where her employer attempted to rape her.

You opened the debate on the indignity being experienced by our migrant workers as well as the appalling conditions of poverty and lack of opportunities in the country which have driven them to exodus.

You rallied people all over the world to unite in their pleas for mercy and compassion from President Joko Widodo of Indonesia. You dared to criticize our own government for its terrible omission on the case of Mary Jane and scores of others who are yet to be named and given attention, even after a reprieve was granted to Mary Jane.

You refused to be relegated to your lowly place in this rotten system. You rose from helplessness to speak up against injustice and demand what is lawfully due you. You inspired the poor and the oppressed to find their own voice.

Now, if you must cry, it will no longer be out of despair, but out of righteous indignation.

You must know by now that paid trolls and bashers are treating you and your family with severe cruelty in social media. Some have called for your execution by firing squad while many have tagged you as an ‘ingrate’, which you are not.

We were there when you humbly and graciously thanked all those who helped you save Mary Jane’s life in every way they can.

You did not give sole credit to the government because you believe that not one single act clinched Mary Jane’s reprieve and that the efforts of many others cannot simply be dismissed or belittled.

Indeed, Nanay, one must not arrogate upon himself the glory arising from a deed which is his duty in the first place. President Aquino’s last-ditch acts only served to officially translate all cumulative and collective efforts in support of our campaign to save a life of an innocent poor single mother of two young boys.

No inordinate gratitude is therefore due to his government that practically sent Mary Jane to the gallows by its inaction and at the last minute even conceded that her death is imminent.

Do not be fazed by these naysayers because a lot of them are plainly ill-informed and unwitting victims in a vicious propaganda attack aimed at undermining our solidarity. They do not represent the people who never left your side, many of whom are not even present online.

Nevertheless, we will attempt to enlighten and urge them to have a heart and listen to reason. We will persuade them to continue linking arms with us because the fight for Mary Jane’s life is not yet over. Our unity is essential in the long and arduous struggle ahead of us.

You must be weary, Nanay.

For now, take respite in the loving company of your relatives, neighbors and friends in your hometown of Talavera who gathered to welcome you and revel at Mary Jane’s new but temporary lease on life. They must have witnessed you going through five gruelling years while Mary Jane awaited her slow death.

As for us, we have only been together for a few turbulent weeks but already, we have learned so much from you, not the least of which is the pureness of a mother’s love.

Nanay, you displayed the true grit of a mother who would do everything to save the life of her daughter and possibly many others.

Thank you for putting your faith in us. We will stand by you.


National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL)


Edre U. Olalia – +639175113353
National Secretary General

Ephraim B. Cortez- +639175465798
Assistant Secretary General for Legal Services

Minerva Lopez- +639980989
Auditor – NUPL NCR

Ma. Cristina Yambot-Tanseco – +639178470301
Secretary General – NUPL NCR

Josalee Deinla- +639174316396
Assistant Secretary General for Education

Jeffrey Aguilar- +639179420332
Member – NUPL NCR


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