CA stops Nueva Ecija court from taking deposition of Mary Jane Veloso
The Court of Appeals has permanently enjoined a Nueva Ecija court from taking the deposition of convicted drug trafficker Mary Jane Veloso in Indonesia to get her side of the story.
In a resolution dated May 22, the appeals court 11th Division said it would be best to preserve the status quo pending resolution on their main petition against taking Veloso’s deposition.
“After a painstaking evaluation of the parties’ arguments, taking into account the pertinent law and jurisprudence, it would be more prudent for this Court to grant the petitioners’ prayer for preliminary injunction in order to maintain the status quo ante which the case is being judiciously studied and to preserve the rights of the parties during the pendency of the instant petition,” the appeals court said through Associate Justice Ramon M. Bato Jr.
The appeals court pointed out that parties to a case have the right to meet the witnesses of the other party face-to-face as provided under the Constitution.
It added that it has been uncontroverted the fact pointed out by accused Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao through the Public Attorneys’ Office (PAO) that Judge Anarica J. Castillo-Reyes of Branch 88 of the Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Court committed grave abuse of discretion when she allowed the deposition of Veloso, currently in Indonesia.
Petitioners added that Castillo-Reyes has no jurisdiction to conduct a deposition in a foreign land and depositions are not allowed in criminal cases.
“Deposition is not meant as a substitute for the actual testimony of a party or witness in open court. Necessarily, unless restrained or enjoined, the taking of Mary Jane’s deposition upon written interrogatories during the pendency of this case will cause grave and irreparable injury to the petitioners as it will adversely affect their right to have merits of their petition passed upon by this Court,” the CA said.
Associate Justices Manuel Barrios and Renato Francisco concurred in the decision.
Sergio and Lacanilao are facing cases for violation of the Migrant Worker’s Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 (Republic Act 8042), Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code, and Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 (Republic Act 9208).
Petitioners believe that securing a written deposition would be prejudicial to their constitutional rights to confront the witnesses face to face, which they added is guaranteed under Section 14, Paragraph 1 of the Constitution.
They said allowing the deposition would also be contrary to the previous ruling of the Supreme Court in Vda. De Manguerra vs. Risos wherein the high court categorically declared that taking of deposition through written interrogatories is applicable only in civil cases and not in criminal cases.
Earlier, lawyer Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said the local court is correct allowing the deposition since Veloso who is on death row in Indonesia cannot appear before the court to personally give her testimony.
Veloso’s camp maintained that she was duped by Sergio and Lacanilao into bringing the drug-laden luggage to Indonesia in 2010 where she was arrested upon her arrival at the Yogyakarta airport.
The death sentence on Veloso was put on hold last April 29, 2015 after then President Benigno Aquino III appealed her case to Indonesian President Joko Widodo. /atm
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