‘Let us not let them down again’ | Monique Wilson on Nanay Celia Veloso

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Monique with Nanay Celia in Cilacap, Indonesia. Photo courtesy of the author.
Monique with Nanay Celia in Cilacap, Indonesia. Photo courtesy of the author.

http://pinoyweekly.org/new/2015/05/let-us-not-let-them-down-again-monique-wilson-on-nanay-celia-veloso/

(Yesterday, May 1, the day the Veloso family arrived back in Manila after a successful worldwide campaign to secure a stay of execution of Mary Jane Veloso, Mary Jane’s mother, Celia and the Veloso family became a subject of a vicious social media “hate” campaign to discredit them and the Filipino migrants’ organization Migrante International. Celia, in a press conference at the Migrante office in Quezon City in the morning, criticized the Aquino administration for its five-year, foot-dragging on Mary Jane’s case. The family, then, graced the huge rally in Mendiola commemorating Labor Day, and once again spoke about the injustices done to Mary Jane and her family by embassy and government officials. Renowned theater artist and activist Monique Wilson was in Indonesia when the Veloso family, some of their supporters and members of their legal team arrived in Jakarta to make last-ditch legal and political efforts to save Mary Jane from the firing squad. Monique accompanied the family and the support team until Mary Jane’s successful stay of execution. Here is an article she wrote about it, in response to the hate campaign against the Velosos. -Ed.)

I was with Nanay Celia, Mary Jane Veloso’s mother, when I spent three days with the family in Cilacap, Indonesia, in the the days leading up to and right after, the scheduled execution that got suspended.

I am in utter shock, disbelief and disgust at the lack of compassion, comprehension of facts, and empathy of some people who are hitting the Veloso family for having the courage to speak the truth, and for holding our government accountable for their criminal neglect and abandonment of Mary Jane — when it is their right to do all these after everything their family has suffered. They have a right to their rage and to their pain, and a right to expose all the obstructions to justice caused by our government that kept Mary Jane languishing in jail for five years and where she continues to sit. Five years that Nanay will never get back with her “bunso“, and five years young Macmac and little Darren will never get back with their Mama.

I urge netizens not just to know the full story first (and the story does not merely begin in the hour leading up to her suspended execution), but to look at the entire CONTEXT of the case, to more importantly, to also IMAGINE if this happened to you and to your loved one. Would your pain not make you rage too? Would you not be shouting even louder than Nanay Celia for what you felt were your privileges?

I met Nanay Celia for the first time last Monday when I arrived to be with my close friends at Migrante. She cried for almost thirty minutes in my arms, this amazing woman whom I did not know but who could have been my own mother, and whose pain I could touch but whose depths of sorrow and suffering I could really only imagine. I have never been inside all the stories she shared with me for the next three days: The extreme poverty, one hardship after the other, the blatant class discrimination the family experienced their whole lives, and leading up to the hands of government officials who mishandled the case. From being patronized, being given the run around, being ignored, being blamed, and where their own Philippine lawyer, Atty Edre Olalia was being kept from them — and much of this I myself witnessed in Cilacap — the way they were treated by government and embassy officials — like the family had no agency over their decision making, how they were talked down on as if they had no value, how they were always being made to feel grateful for the food, for the hotel, for the van — when in fact, this is all owed to them and much more.
Temporary reprieve, temporary respite. Fight not yet over. The Veloso family with Connie Bragas-Regalado of Migrante International, Atty.Edre Olalia of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, Ini Iwenk of Indonesian migrant group ATKI and other Indonesian colleagues and Monique Wilson of One Billion Rising and Gabriela. Taken in Yogjakarta, Indonesia. Photo courtesy: Save the Life of Mary Jane Veloso FB page

Temporary reprieve, temporary respite. Fight not yet over. The Veloso family with Connie Bragas-Regalado of Migrante International, Atty.Edre Olalia of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, Ini Iwenk of Indonesian migrant group ATKI and other Indonesian colleagues and Monique Wilson of One Billion Rising and Gabriela. Taken in Yogjakarta, Indonesia. Photo courtesy: Save the Life of Mary Jane Veloso FB page

The way they were treated, condescendingly and with little or no value, truly and honestly because they are poor. (The deplorable patronizing ways of the Department of Foreign Affairs people and embassy officials towards them which I witnessed there is another long story which I will share shortly). I have never seen any other family go through what I witnessed the Veloso family go through in the three days I was with them. The intense roller-coaster ride of every conceivable emotion, over and over again. And the grace and humility and love and gratitude in which they went through all that with moved me to tears the whole time, and deepened my respect for the family who behaved with so much DIGNITY despite their ordeal and their unimaginable pain.

They are real people, and simply with aspirations for their daughter, for their children and grandchildren, to live some life of dignity and respect and value. Everything we, those of us who were born with privilege, take for granted everyday because we know they are our right. Because we have always lived with them and never had to fight or struggle to gain them.

Temporary reprieve, temporary respite. Fight not yet over. The Veloso family with Connie Bragas-Regalado of Migrante International, Atty.Edre Olalia of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, Ini Iwenk of Indonesian migrant group ATKI and other Indonesian colleagues and Monique Wilson of One Billion Rising and Gabriela. Taken in Yogjakarta, Indonesia. Photo courtesy: Save the Life of Mary Jane Veloso FB page
Temporary reprieve, temporary respite. Fight not yet over. The Veloso family with Connie Bragas-Regalado of Migrante International, Atty.Edre Olalia of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, Ini Iwenk of Indonesian migrant group ATKI and other Indonesian colleagues and Monique Wilson of One Billion Rising and Gabriela. Taken in Yogjakarta, Indonesia. Photo courtesy: Save the Life of Mary Jane Veloso FB page

Nanay Celia and the Veloso family deserve our support. They have been through hell and back. Let us not be part of their continued suffering by casting judgments and aspersions on their experience and pain, of which we have no right to speak. Let us not let our petty bourgeois upbringing, from our perches of privilege, lead us to do even more classist, discriminatory attacks, the likes of which they have already been experiencing all their lives.

Let us not be the ones to let them down again.

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