DOJ okays illegal recruitment case vs Mary Jane’s recruiters

Buena Bernal
(UPDATED) The justice department finds probable cause to indict Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao of illegal recruitment

ALLEGED RECURITER. Mary Jane Veloso's alleged illegal recruiter Maria Cristina Sergio appears in this photo with PAO Chief Persida Acosta, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. File photo by Jose Del/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – The alleged recruiters of Filipino-on-death-row Mary Jane Veloso are set to face a criminal case of illegal recruitment before a Nueva Ecija court and will remain in detention.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) resolved on Thursday, May 7, that there is probable cause to indict Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao on the charge of illegal recruitment, but has yet to approve the filing in court of charges related to human trafficking and estafa.

The illegal recruitment case will be filed on Friday, May 8. It stems from the complaints of 3 victims who surfaced other than Veloso. No bail was recommended for Sergio and Lacanilao.

Illegal recruitment is a crime under Section 6 of the Migrant Workers Act of 1995, punishable by imprisonment of not less than 6 years and one day but not more than 12 years and a fine not less than P200,000.00 nor more than P500,000.00.

It is deemed “committed in large scale if committed against 3 or more persons individually or as a group,” the law reads.

The complaints against Sergio and Lacanilao came after extensive media coverage on and public attention to Veloso’s case.

Sergio and Lacanilao lived together in a house in Talavera town in Nueva Ecija, an hour away from the Velosos in a farming village in neighboring Cabanatuan City. Lacanilao’s father was Veloso’s godfather in marriage.

Veloso’s parents said this made it easier for both Sergio and Lacanilao to gain Veloso’s trust when they offered her a fast-tracked job placement in Malaysia as a domestic worker. (READ: The story of Mary Jane Veloso, in her own words)

Veloso is a Filipino who used to work as a domestic worker in Saudi Arabia before she was meted the death penalty in Indonesia over drug smuggling charges.

Her execution has since been delayed pending the legal action against her illegal recruiters in the Philippines.

A high school drop-out and a mother of two, she insists she was framed and duped into unknowingly serving as a drug mule. (WATCH: The fate of Mary Jane Veloso

No need for actual deployment

The qualified illegal recruitment case against Sergio and Lacanilao are based on complaints of 3 women in Talavera who alleged that Sergio had offered them jobs abroad at different dates from 2010 to 2014.

None of them accepted the job offers, having known that Sergio was the one who had recruited Veloso. 

The DOJ resolved  that “the law does not mandate that the victim of illegal recruitment should actually be deployed abroad in order for the crime to be completed.”

The DOJ stressed that contracting, procuring, promising, or advertising for employment abroad already constitute illegal recruitment.

Veloso’s arrest in 2010 had become talk of the town, allowing other victims like the 3 involved in the impending illegal recruitment case to either reject or back out from Sergio’s offers. 

Upon knowing about her arrest in 2010, Veloso’s parents confronted Sergio about it in Talavera.

Sergio had told the Veloso couple at that time not to worry as she was part of a well-connected international drug syndicate, which can easily secure Veloso’s freedom. (READ: Mary Jane Veloso a drug smuggler? Look at our home, parents say

Modus operandi

Susan “Toots” Ople, an advocate of migrant workers’ rights, had said that human trafficking almost aways begins with illegal recruitment – the promise of a job abroad. (READ: Desire to work abroad exploited by human traffickers

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) warns against illegal recruiters, stressing the links of the underground industry with drug syndicates

Human trafficking within the country also persists, but the Philippines has been a source country in cross-border human trafficking. (READ: Human trafficking convictions: How has government fared?

Overseas employment has been a bait by which syndicates prey on many unsuspecting Filipinos, but the dangers that await illegal employment-related migration are overwhelming and at most times irreparable. (READ: How to report suspected cases of human trafficking

The Philippines is a known labor-sending country, with over 10.5 million Filipinos either temporarily working or permanently residing abroad. 

While remittances of Filipino migrant workers boost the economy, President Benigno Aquino III envisions a government that generates jobs at home so that working abroad will be a choice rathe than a necessity.  Rappler.com