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Pinoy Abroad

Allow Mary Jane Veloso to testify vs. recruiters, parents ask SC

The parents of Filipina death row inmate Mary Jane Veloso have asked the Supreme Court (SC) to allow their daughter to testify against her alleged recruiters from her jail cell in Indonesia.

In a petition filed Monday, Cesar and Celia Veloso requested the SC to nullify the Court of Appeals' (CA) decision that blocked a Nueva Ecija judge from observing Mary Jane's deposition through written interrogatories.

Mary Jane was caught at a Yogyakarta airport carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin in her luggage in 2010. She was investigated and convicted for drug trafficking by Indonesian courts and later sentenced to execution by firing squad.

Mary Jane was granted reprieve in 2015, after then-President Benigno Aquino III appealed to the Indonesian government to turn her into a witness in the criminal case against her recruiters.

Her recruiters, Ma. Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, face qualified human trafficking, illegal recruitment and estafa charges before the Sto. Domingo, Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Court's Branch 88.

Mary Jane 'gagged'

In their petition, Cesar and Celia, represented by the National Union of People's Lawyers, argued that the CA "gravely erred and gravely abused its discretion" by blocking the taking of their daughter's testimony by deposition.

They said the CA had neither legal nor factual basis to grant Sergio and Lacanilao's petition for certiorari that made permanent its writ of injunction against the convicted drug mule's testimony.

"To bar Mary Jane from testifying will prevent the prosecution from fully presenting their case by means of crucial material evidence, thereby denying the victim of her opportunity to finally be heard," the petition said.

"This will moreover set the horrible precedent of allowing human traffickers to escape liability by harping on a purported violation of their constitutional right to confrontation while ensuring that their victims are virtually gagged and rendered without the right to be heard."

Moreover, they argued that there are "reasonable and compelling grounds" for the Nueva Ecija judge to allow the deposition taking, citing the following:

  • That only Mary Jane, the "key witness" in the case, can provide material facts proving that she was a victim of human trafficking and that it was Sergio and Lacanilao who committed the offense against her;
  • That she cannot be present in the Philippines as witness because she is a maximum-security inmate in Indonesia, outside the jurisdiction of Philippine courts; and
  • That the prosecution of the case against her recruiters is an effort to fulfill the country's commitment as state party to the Trafficking Protocol of 2000.
  • They also asked the SC to effect rules in cases involving transnational offenses where a vital witness for the prosecution in a criminal case is unavailable for reasons other than those already provided in the Rules of Criminal Procedure.

"The case of Mary Jane is not the first and will certainly not be the last. There will be more Mary Janes out of our compatriots who are driven into exodus by poverty and lack of opportunities at home," hence the need for such rules of procedure, they said.

Finally, Cesar and Celia, whose lawyers argued they have the legal standing to intervene, asked the SC to order the Nueva Ecija judge to desist from conducting further proceedings in the case against Sergio and Lacanilao pending resolution of their pleading.

However, the SC would still have to grant their motion for leave to intervene before it admits their petition-in-intervention.  —KBK, GMA News