Following the Court of Appeals’ decision in June blocking Mary Jane Veloso from testifying against her traffickers via deposition through written interrogatories, the case is now raised to the Supreme Court (SC).
Parents of Mary Jane and their pro-bono lawyers from the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL) submitted a petition to the SC in Monday morning, asking the highest court to reverse the appellate court’s decision and allow Mary Jane to exercise her right to testify. Outside the gates of the SC, a picket was conducted by OFWs and supporters backing the petition.
In the “Petition in Intervention with Urgent Prayer for Status Quo Ante Order” filed by Celia and Cesar Veloso through their legal counsel NUPL, it argued: “Mary Jane represents the unnamed victims of human trafficking who are victims twice over, suffering not only the indignity of exploitation, but also the loss of liberty as a consequence of their being exploited for illegal purposes. To thus disallow her testimony by way of deposition will defeat and render inutile the very spirit and intent of the law. This will moreover set the horrible precedent of allowing human traffickers to escape liability by harping on a purported violation of their constitutional right to confrontation while ensuring that their victims are virtually gagged and rendered without the right to be heard.”
The Petition was in support of the earlier appeal of the Office of the Solicitor General filed at the SC last month.
In August 2016, the Regional Trial Court Branch 88 in Sto. Domingo, Nueva Ecija granted the motion to take Mary Jane’s deposition in Indonesia. However in January 2017, the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) representing respondents Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao filed a TRO petition annulling the RTC Branch 88’s resolution. For the second time, the Court of Appeals has ruled in the respondents’ favour on the 13th of December 2017.
Sergio and Lacanilao have pending cases for qualified human trafficking, illegal recruitment and estafa. Their role in illegally recruiting Mary Jane to work in Malaysia and then her trafficking to Indonesia has already been established.
Mary Jane has been languishing in jail since 2010 and has been on death row since 2015. On the day of her execution through firing squad, she was granted temporary reprieve to enable her to testify against her traffickers. The only remaining evidence that will finally prove her case is her own testimony.
Migrante sees that barring Mary Jane from testifying is inimical to the real fight against drug trafficking. Arman Hernando, spokesperson of Migrante International said, “Denying Mary Jane’s deposition is tantamount to gagging her from revealing the truth and letting big international drug syndicates to wreak havoc in the Philippines and elsewhere allowing them to ruin more lives.”
Hernando called on Filipinos and international supporters to continue standing for Mary Jane. “Once again, we are calling on all the people to raise their voices for justice and for Mary Jane’s freedom so that she can be reunited with her family. Let us strengthen our collective efforts to save more lives and finally put an end to the banes of drug and human trafficking.” Hernando concluded.
Her family is scheduled to visit Mary Jane in prison in the coming weeks through the support of Migrante International’s network of faith-based organizations. In Indonesia, they will also attend a conference of church groups and grassroots migrants based in the Asia Pacific region which seeks to build a common platform in combating human trafficking with Veloso’s case as focus.