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CA bars Mary Jane Veloso's testimony vs recruiters.

By Rey Panaligan and Samuel Medenilla

The Court of Appeals (CA) has nullified a trial court order that allowed Filipina death row drug convict Mary Jane Veloso to testify against her alleged illegal recruiters through a deposition inside her detention cell in Indonesia where she is facing death sentence for illegal drugs trafficking.

Migrante-Philippines chairperson Arman Hernando, in a statement, condemned CA's reversal of a Regional Trial Court's ruling allowing the deposition of Veloso that will prevent her from testifying against her alleged traffickers - Ma. Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao.

"This is a very unfortunate development. Let us all be reminded that the basis for Mary Jane's temporary reprieve in 2015 was to give way to legal proceedings here in the Philippines," Hernando said.

The ruling

In a decision written by Associate Justice Ramon M. Bato Jr., the CA said:

"We are not unmindful of the gravity of the offenses charged against the petitioners (Ma. Cristina P. Sergio and Julius L. Lacanilao, the alleged illegal recruiters). Likewise, We are not oblivious of the sad and unfortunate fate that befell Mary Jane.

"However, the circumstances in this case call for the application of Rule 119 which categorically states that the conditional examination of a prosecution witness shall be made before the court where the case is pending in light of the constitutionally enshrined right of the petitioners to meet the witnesses face to face or the right of confrontation and cross examination."

Section 1, Rule 115 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure states that "in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be entitled... to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him at the trial."

A deposition is a written testimony made under oath by a witness who is unable to testify in person concerning facts known to him.

Drug mule

Veloso, whom was supposed to work as a household service worker in Indonesia, was arrested upon her arrival at the Yogyakarta airport for unwittingly bringing a drug-laden luggage in 2010.

She was sentenced to death.

No death before dawn

The death sentence was temporarily put on hold last April 29, 2015 after then President Benigno C. Aquino III appealed her case to Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Sergio and Lacanilao were charged with human trafficking before Judge Anarica J. Castillo- Reyes of the regional trial court (RTC) based in Sto. Domingo, Nueva Ecija.

They have been detained since then.

On motion by the prosecution, Judge Reyes ordered the Philippine Consulate in Indonesia to secure Veloso's deposition from her cell in Wirongan Penitentiary.

When the trial court denied Sergio and Lacanilao's plea to reconsider the judge's order, they elevated the issue before the CA.

They told the CA that the taking of Veloso's deposition in Indonesia would be prejudicial to their constitutional rights to confront the witnesses face to face.


Mary Jane Veloso

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Title Annotation:National
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:9INDO
Date:Jan 5, 2018
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