Mary Jane Veloso’s parents ask SC to let their daughter speak
The parents of human trafficking victim Mary Jane Veloso on Monday asked the Supreme Court to allow their daughter to testify against her alleged recruiters through a deposition.
Veloso’s lawyers from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) want Veloso’s written testimony to bolster the case against Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, her alleged recruiters.
The case was taken to the Supreme Court after the Court of Appeals reversed the Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Court Branch 88’s decision giving the go signal for Veloso’s camp to go to Jakarta, Indonesia and take her deposition.
The appeals court agreed with the arguments raised by her recruiters in saying that allowing Veloso’s deposition would violate their right to confront the witnesses against them. Allowing Veloso to testify, they said, will also violate their right 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.
Sergio 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 for allegedly tricking Veloso to go abroad and unknowingly use her to smuggle heroin in Indonesia.
The NUPL lawyers maintain that the use of the deposition in criminal proceedings is not prohibited under the Rules of Court and that it will not deprive the accused of their constitutional right to confrontation as they, in fact, will have an opportunity to test and dispute her testimony thoroughly.
“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,” NUPL President Edre Olalia said in seeking the case’s immediate resolution.
They also assert that her continued incarceration on death row and the position of the Indonesian government that the only proper mode for her to testify is through such deposition are compelling and unique reasons. Such extraordinary and novel circumstances dictate that she be allowed to speak through this manner.
Mary Jane’s parents said that there is nothing more compelling than preserving the testimony of their daughter who is unavailable for trial through no fault of her own, and whose lips may otherwise be sealed forever by death, especially if such testimony is the very reason that she got to live another day.
“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 a premium on a technicality at the expense of the right of the State to prosecute criminal wrongdoing,” they said.
“The issuance of a permanent injunction enjoining the RTC and the prosecution to take Mary Jane’s deposition is a grave injustice. It is a curtailment of her right to be heard as well as the public’s right to know the truth,” they added.
They said only Mary Jane could provide material facts to prove the elements of trafficking in her case and that it was Sergio and Lacanilao who committed the supposed offense against her.
Even government lawyers led by Solicitor General Jose Calida agreed that Veloso should be allowed to testify via a deposition.
“Generally, the examination of witnesses must be done orally before a judge in open court,” the appellate court said in the 18-page decision dated December 13, 2017.
But Calida argued that Veloso could fall under the exception instead of the general rule in instances where a prosecution witness cannot personally appear in court.
“Her personal appearance before the trial court for the presentation of her testimony cannot be reasonably expected owing to her detention in an Indonesian jail. Undeniably, the resort to deposition in the present criminal case is not expressly prohibited by law nor jurisprudence,” Calida said.
Calida added that allowing the taking of Veloso’s deposition would still be lawful under Rule 23 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure and would not violate the constitutional rights of Sergio and Lacanilao.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo stopped Veloso’s execution on April 29, 2015 after then-President Benigno Aquino III appealed her case and explained that her testimony is vital in the case she has filed against her recruiters.
She has been detained since 2010 after Indonesian authorities apprehended her at the Yogyakarta airport for bringing in more than two kilograms of heroin. /ee
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