Veloso kin asks SC to allow testimony vs. recruiters

MANILA The family of Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipino who is in Indonesia's death row for drug charges, on Monday asked the Supreme Court (SC) to allow her to testify in the criminal case against her recruiters through a deposition.

In 37-page intervention with urgent prayer for status quo ante order, Mary Jane's parents Cesar and Celia Veloso sought the lifting of the permanent injunction issued by the Court of Appeals (CA) on December 13, 2017 that it affirmed in a resolution issued on June 5, 2018.

The CA ruling blocked Mary Jane from testifying against her alleged recruiters Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao.

In their petition with the SC, the Veloso couple said the CA is depriving Mary Jane of her right to fair trial by permanently barring her deposition through its issuance of an injunctive writ. They explained the prohibition will prevent the DOJ from fully presenting its case by means of crucial material evidence, thereby denying the victim of her opportunity to finally be heard.

The permanent injunction violates Mary Jane Veloso's right to due process and fair trial. It should be stressed that these rights do not tilt in favor of an accused at all times. In fact, the right to fair trial is not only available to the accused, their petition stated.

National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) secretary-general Edre Olalia accused the CA of issuing the permanent injunction against Veloso's testimony without basis both in fact and in law.

Olalia said the permanent injunction violates Veloso's right to due process and fair trial.

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. This strikes at the very core of the due process guarantee of the Constitution and puts premium on technicality at the expense of the right of the State to prosecute criminal wrongdoing, he added.

The assailed Court of Appeals decision and resolution, which are the subject of the main petition filed by the People before this Honorable Court denying Mary Jane's plea to be allowed to testify through deposition is � literally and without an iota of exaggeration a matter of life and death, Olalia said in seeking an immediate resolution on the case.

Olalia insisted that the CA gravely abused its discretion in giving due course to Veloso's alleged recruiters, Ma. Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao's petition seeking the reversal of the trial court's order and in the subsequent issuance of the permanent injunction against the taking of Veloso's deposition.

The CA, according to Olalia, should have dismissed outright Sergio and Lacanilao's petition due to their failure to show that the trial court committed grave abuse of discretion in allowing Veloso to testify through deposition.

In the instant case, there is not even a hint that the Honorable Trial Judge gravely abused its discretion in rendering the assailed resolutions, he pointed out.

The CA, in the two rulings, reversed and set aside the order issued by the Branch 88 of the Regional Trial Court of Baloc, Santo Domingo, Nueva Ecija on August 16, 2016 giving the camp of Veloso the go-signal to take her deposition in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The appellate court sided with the arguments raised by her recruiters Sergio and Lacanilao that allowing the Philippine Embassy in Indonesia to get her deposition would violate their right to confront the witness face to face and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence which is guaranteed under Section 14, Paragraph 1 of the 1987 Constitution.

Sergo and Lacanilao are being tried for qualified human trafficking, estafa and simple illegal recruitment before the Regional Trial Court of Baloc, Santo Domingo, Nueva Ecija in connection with Veloso's case.

They are accused of duping Veloso into bringing heroin to Indonesia, resulting in her arrest and conviction.

Veloso's camp has insisted that the deposition would boost her defense in the drug trafficking conviction in Indonesia, thus, sought the reversal of the CA's decision.

Veloso was arrested in Indonesia in April 2010 for smuggling 2.6 kilograms of heroin.

In October 2010, she was sentenced to death but was granted a stay of execution in 2016 after the Philippine government said her testimony would be vital in the human trafficking charges filed against her illegal recruiters.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo stopped Veloso's execution on April 29, 2015 after then President Benigno Aquino III appealed her case.

Earlier, the Department of Foreign Affairs assured the family of Veloso of the government's continued support as well as for her to be able to prove she was a victim of human trafficking despite the CA ruling. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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