“The Supreme Court (SC) ruling announced today is very timely as the lower trial court gave us in the prosecution one last chance to get her testimony on October 28 after extending the deadline from September 26 when we fought tooth and nail to keep the fire burning,” said Veloso’s private counsels from the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL) in a statement.
Veloso was scheduled to be executed on the midnight of April 28, 2015, but Indonesia issued a reprieve at 11pm in Indonesia. Maria Cristina P. Sergio, alleged illegal recruiter of Veloso, showed up at a police station in Cabanatuan around six hours before Veloso’s death sentence was to be carried out, and Sergio’s surrender was used to appeal Veloso’s execution.
NUPL said Veloso is the principal and last witness and private complainant in the human trafficking, illegal recruitment and swindling cases lodged against her local illegal recruiters.
“The [SC] has allowed the taking of the testimony of convicted drug trafficker Mary Jane Veloso against her recruiters by way of deposition in Indonesia,” the SC Public Information Office said in a statement on October 11.
The SC said a written deposition is the only mode allowed by the Indonesian government for Veloso to testify in her case in the Philippines.
Veloso was arrested in April 2010 upon arrival in Indonesia for carrying a luggage with 2.6kg (5.7lb) heroin in hidden compartments. In October 2010, she was convicted for drug trafficking and is currently on death row in the neighboring nation. All her appeals were denied up to her scheduled execution. Veloso alleged her luggage was provided by her recruiters Sergio and Julius L. Lacanilao, whom she accused of tricking her into smuggling heroin into Indonesia. Sergio denied these accusations.
“It was a long journey since she was saved at the last minute from the gallows in 2015 after being framed up in 2010. We are very glad that the Court saw our reasonable position as officially articulated by the government lawyers who marched in sync with us on this specific case to seek justice,” added NUPL.
Veloso’s written testimony will be presented as the prosecution’s last witness on October 28, which is the final court hearing set by the Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Court (RTC) for the presentation of prosecution witnesses.
“Migrante International welcomes the Supreme Court decision to finally allow Mary Jane Veloso to give her testimony against her traffickers through written deposition. With this ruling, Mary Jane will be able to bring to light the horrors of her ordeal,” said the group in a statement.
The migrant workers’ welfare group hoped the SC decision will serve as a precedent for overseas Filipinos who may in troublesome circumstances later find themselves victims of human trafficking and illegal recruitment.
Veloso’s mother, Celia, expressed her gratitude for the decision through a video message.
“Masayang masaya po ako sa araw na ito dahil ngayong araw na ito nalaman ko na makakapagsalita si Mary Jane. Kaya maraming maraming salamat sa Supreme Court dahil binigyan nila ng pag-asa na makapagpaliwanag ang aking anak na malaman ng buong mundo ang katotohanan. Si Mary Jane lang po ang nakakaalam ng buong katotohanan. Kaya nagpapasalamat po ako sa inyo at napakasaya po naming buong pamilya dito. Lalong lalo na po yung dalawang anak niya, nung malaman po nilang ganon, lumulundag po sila sa tuwa yung dalawang anak niya,” said Mary Jane’s mother.
[I am very happy after learning that Mary Jane will now be allowed to speak. I am very thankful to the Supreme Court for giving us hope, Mary Jane can now explain her side and tell the truth to the whole world. Mary Jane is the only one who knows the whole truth. Our family is very happy especially her two children. They were jumping in joy upon hearing the good news.]
Celia is also hopeful that Mary Jane’s testimony will lead to her acquittal and release from prison after 10 years.
“Sampung taon na po si Mary Jane sa kulungan na nagtitiis, tumatanda, yung mga anak lumalaki na wala sa piling nila ang kanilang ina. Sana naman po, sa hearing sa 28, lumabas na po ang buong katotohanan, sana naman po marinig ng buong mundo, marinig ng ating gobyerno, at mapalaya na po si Mary Jane para naman po makapiling na niya ang kaniyang mga anak,” Celia Veloso said.
[Mary Jane has been in prison for 10 years now, suffering. Her children our growing up without the care of their mother. We hope that on the 28th, the truth will finally be revealed. I hope the whole world will hear her, especially our government, so that she can soon be free and be reunited with her family.]
Migrante International, private counsels from NUPL and other supporters have long petitioned for Mary Jane to be allowed to testify. These efforts suffered a setback when the Court of Appeals on December 13, 2017 released an 18-page decision ordering the [Nueva Ecija] RTC not to take her testimony in Indonesia for “it would prejudice the rights of Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao to confront her and scrutinize her testimony face-to-face.”
NUPL said that the SC ruling proved that rules of procedure as in many other cases should subserve substantive justice.