“It is a settled fact that the private complainant is a death row prisoner having been convicted of drug trafficking in the Republic of Indonesia.”
By JONAS ALPASAN
MANILA – A Nueva Ecija court upheld its earlier decision to allow Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina on death row in Indonesia, to testify against her recruiters through a written deposition.
Judge Anarica Castillo-Reyes of the Sto. Domingo Regional Trial Court Branch 88 junked the motion for reconsideration filed by lawyers of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) in behalf of accused Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao who asked to reverse the court’s earlier ruling. In a decision dated Nov. 3, the judge said Veloso’s incarceration abroad is not included in the enumeration of instances that require conditional examination of witnesses in open court.
“It is a settled fact that the private complainant is a death row prisoner having been convicted of drug trafficking in the Republic of Indonesia. The execution of her sentence was temporarily stayed by the Indonesian government so that she could prosecute her offenders who are allegedly responsible for her present plight,” Reyes said.
The judge said that allowing Mary Jane to provide her testimony through a written deposition will not violate the constitutional rights of the accused to confront their accusers and meet witnesses face-to-face, as “confrontation is not necessarily equated with the physical presence of the accused while the private complainant delivers her deposition.”
Reyes said the accused are afforded the right to ask cross and re-cross questions.
She also stressed that she would be present as an “observer” as the Philippine consul takes Mary Jane’s written testimony. She added that she would be strictly following the Philippine court’s guidelines on judges travelling abroad for “official business” so that she would not be sanctioned for violating administrative rules.
The written interrogatories would be the first time for Mary Jane to tell about her ordeal, as the Indonesian justice system did not allow such. She remains in prison in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, more than a year since her scheduled execution was stayed at dawn of April 29, 2015 amid national and international outcry about her being a victim of human trafficking.
Meanwhile, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) secretary general Ephraim Cortez told Bulatlat they presented Mary Jane’s estranged husband, Michael Candelaria, as witness at the continuation of the hearing at the Sto. Domingo court yesterday, Nov. 10.
Cortez said Candelaria testified that Sergio and Lacanilao recruited Veloso to work as a domestic helper in Malaysia, and even demanded P20,000 ($400) for Veloso’s plane tickets. He is scheduled to continue his testimony on Dec. 15.
Sergio and Lacanilao are detained at the Nueva Ecija provincial jail in Cabanatuan City on two sets of charges: qualified human trafficking, illegal recruitment, and estafa in relation with Mary Jane’s case; and large-scale and syndicated human trafficking filed by three other women complainants who surfaced at the height of the campaign to save the Filipina from the gallows.