SC affirms decision to allow Mary Jane Veloso to testify inside Indonesian jail

Published August 14, 2020, 10:58 PM

by Rey Panaligan 

The Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed its decision that allowed detained overseas Filipino worker Mary Jane Veloso to testify against her alleged illegal recruiters through a deposition inside her detention cell in Indonesia where she is facing the death sentence for illegal drugs trafficking.          

In a resolution made public on Friday, August 14, the SC denied the motion for reconsideration filed by the Public Attorneys Office (PAO) in behalf of alleged illegal recruiters Ma. Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao who were charged with human trafficking before the regional trial court (RTC) in Sto. Domingo, Nueva Ecija.

They have been detained since then.        

Veloso was arrested upon her arrival at the Yogyakarta airport in Indonesia for bringing a drug-laden luggage in 2010.  She was sentenced to death by firing squad.         

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

On motion by the prosecution, Nueva Ecija RTC Judge Anarica J. Castillo Reyes ordered the Philippine Consulate in Indonesia to secure Veloso’s deposition from her cell in Wirongan Penitentiary.         

When Judge Reyes denied Sergio and Lacanilao’s plea to reconsider the order, they elevated the issue before the Court of Appeals (CA) which reversed the RTC’s ruling.         

In the SC petition filed for her by the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), Veloso sought the reversal of a CA’s decision against her deposition in Indonesia.         

The SC petition stated:

“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 premium on technicality at the expense of the right of the State to prosecute criminal wrongdoing.”         

Granting Veloso’s petition and reversing the CA ruling, the SC – in a July 2019 decision written by Associate Justice Ramon Paul L. Hernando — ruled that to disallow the taking of the testimony of Veloso by way of deposition through written interrogatories will curtail her right to due process.          

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

The decision stated that the RTC did not gravely abuse its discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it granted the taking of testimony of Veloso by way of deposition through written interrogatories “in light of the conditions of Mary Jane’s reprieve and her imprisonment in Indonesia.”          

Through the PAO, Sergio and Lacanilao filed a motion to reconsider the SC decision.         

Denying the motion, the SC ruled that the PAO failed to raise substantial argument that would warrant a reversal of its October 2019 ruling.        

“The Court further resolves to deny the motion with finality, the basic issues raised therein having been duly considered and passed upon by the Court in the aforesaid decision,” the SC said.

It also stressed: “No further pleadings, motions, letters or other communications shall be entertained in this case. Let an entry of judgment be issued immediately.”