CA stops OFW Veloso from telling her story in Indonesia

January 5, 2018 - 2:26 PM
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Mary Jane Veloso holds a sampler she worked on from prison, where she has kept herself busy doing crochet and embroidery for various items that she then sells. She showed her work to DSWD Assistant Secretary Aleli B. Bawagan who was tasked to visit her in Wirogun Prison in Indonesia to personally check on her condition in November 2016. HANDOUT PHOTO FROM OSEC, DSWD
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MANILA – Shall we wait till a fellow Filipina is sent to the gallows with her mouth gagged?

Lawyers for OFW Mary Jane Veloso, who narrowly avoided execution in 2015 in Indonesia on drug trafficking charges, raised this pointed question Friday after lawyers for those she tagged as her illegal recruiters got a Philippine Court of Appeals injunction stopping her from giving testimony in her defense to the Indonesian authorities.

“We are disappointed that the taking of her material testimony is being prevented by our own courts, the Court of Appeals in particular, upon motion of the accused illegal recruiters’ defense team. This injunction is both frustrating and ironic,” said the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), which has been helping Veloso since she was sentenced to death in Indonesia following her arrest at the airport there when her luggage yielded methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu.

Veloso had insisted the luggage was given her by a province mate and distant relative – Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, – who recruited her for a job in Malaysia, which did not prosper, and subsequently a promised job in Indonesia.

In an 18-page decision dated Dec. 13, 2017, the former 11th Division of the CA granted the petition for certiorari and prohibition filed by the lawyers of Sergio and Lacanilao, according to a report by the Philippine Star.

The ruling likewise reversed and set aside the decision of the Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Court Branch 88 that allowed Judge Anarica Castillo-Reyes to observe Veloso’s deposition in Indonesia. Earlier, Reyes’ sala allowed the Philippine consulate in Indonesia to take Veloso’s testimony through deposition in Wirongunan Penitentiary, where she is detained in Indonesia, the Star reported.

‘LET HER TELL HER STORY’

Just minutes before her April 2015 execution along with nine other foreigners facing drug charges, the Indonesian government granted Veloso a reprieve while proceeding to execute the others.

The reprieve was given on strong representations by the then Aquino administration on Veloso’s behalf. The Philippine officials assured Indonesia that Veloso, kept alive, could help them catch members of a West African drug ring allegedly in cahoots with Veloso’s recruiter from Nueva Ecija.

In its statement Friday on learning of the Court of Appeals’ favorable action on the plea by Veloso’s traffickers, the NUPL said, “We are in coordination with Philippine Public Prosecutors and indirectly with the Office of the Solicitor General so our plea for a reconsideration will be given a fair shake.”

After all, added the NUPL, “what we are just asking is for her to tell her story in full and with the guarantees of due process intact and in accordance with the basic rules of evidence, sans dilatory or complicated legal technicalities nor prior restraint.”

NUPL lawyers led by Edre U. Olalia argued that, “No fundamental right is violated if Mary Jane is allowed to answer written interrogatories as the accused through counsel will be present when her deposition is taken in Indonesia in the presence not only of the same Philippine judge hearing the case for human trafficking, illegal recruitment and swindling, but also other concerned judicial and consular officials of the Philippines and Indonesia.”

Moreover, NUPL said “the 130 or so questions of fact have been furnished both the court and the defense who can ask their own cross-interrogatories, all of which in turn will all be given the weight and sufficiency they warrant.

“Given the novelty of the legal situation involving two jurisdictions and her circumstances of being detained in a foreign land unable or disallowed to go home as yet, her deposition would shed light on the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

NUPL’s simple appeal: “Just let her speak out and let her story stand on its own. Or shall we wait for her to be sent to the gallows with her mouth gagged?”