MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The alleged “recruiter” of death convict Mary Jane Veloso may yet help prove her innocence that she was only duped into transporting illegal drugs to Indonesia.
This, as Cristina Sergio confirmed portions of the testimony of Veloso, bolstering her narrative before the court.
But Sergio, tagged as Veloso’s recruiter, said Veloso had only herself to blame – a victim of her own character flaw and of circumstances in her desire to find work abroad.
Sergio affirmed that her neighbor was innocent of drug trafficking, and that she was only duped by two African-looking men whom they met while they were in Malaysia in April 2010.
Veloso was supposed to be executed by firing squad on April 29, 2015, but a last minute reprieve spared her life temporarily. The reprieve came hours after Sergio surrendered to local authorities because of alleged threats to her life and her live-in partner, Julius Lacanilao.
A former overseas Filipino worker, Veloso caught national attention because of the gripping elements of drama and conflict in her case.
In the latest twist to the case, Sergio may yet be the lone witness who could back up Veloso’s claim that she was only hoodwinked by two strangers into carrying 2.6 kilos of heroin in Indonesia.
Public Attorney’s Office head Persida Acosta, who is defending Sergio, said on Thursday, May 21, her client could testify to the circumstances that led to Veloso’s misfortune.
“She can testify on the two men they met while they were in Malaysia. She can describe them,” Acosta said in a separate interview.
It is like hitting two birds with one stone: Sergio bolstering Veloso’s defense, while at the same time exonerating herself from the accusation that she led Veloso into a trap.
Victim of circumstance
In her 31-page counter-affidavit, Sergio said she sincerely believed that Veloso was only a victim of circumstance.
“Ako ay buong pananalig at naniniwalang inosente si (Veloso) sa kasong pagdadala ng illegal na droga na mula Malaysia patungo Indonesia…” Sergio said. (I am of the firm belief that Veloso is innocent in bringing illegal drugs from Malaysia to Indonesia.)
“Ako ay naniniwalang hindi talaga alam ni (Veloso) na bigla syang pagdadalhin ng maleta imbes na hand-carry bag lamang, ng mga nakipag-usap sa kanya na mga lalaking maiitim ang balat at hindi rin nya alam na pinagdala ng ipinagbabawal na droga.” (I believe Veloso was totally unaware that she would be asked to bring luggage instead of a mere hand-carry bag by black-complexioned men, and she was unaware that she’d be carrying illegal drugs.)
“Ako ay naninindigan na si Mary Jane Veloso ay nabiktima lamang at pinagsamantalahan ang kanyang kahinaan sa pag-iisip, masidhing pangangailangan ng trabaho at ang kanyang likas na angkin na mapagtiwala sa mga tao kahit hindi nya kilala,” Sergio said. (I believe that Veloso is a victim here by people who took advantage of her poor judgment, her intense desire to find work, and her being too-trusting of people even if she doesn’t know them.)
Veloso’s lawyer, Edre Olalia welcomed Sergio’s statement.
“Sergio finally made an unequivocal and categorical admission that (Veloso) is absolutely innocent and that she truly has no knowledge that she was carrying illegal drugs to Indonesia when she was victimized by two males who supposedly made their acquaintance in Malaysia. This is the ultimate fact, a positive development that we have been waiting for the longest time,” Olalia said in a statement.
‘John and I.K.’
In her affidavit, Sergio maintained that she had nothing to do with Veloso’s misfortune and that they were being used as scapegoats.
She stressed that she only tried to help Veloso find a job in Malaysia after the latter pleaded for her to bring her to Malaysia.
Veloso, in her own narrative, however, said she was approached by Sergio and asked if she was interested to look for work abroad. (READ: The story of Mary Jane Veloso, in her own words)
While Veloso and Sergio’s testimonies have both divergent versions, there were instances that their separate stories jibed.
Among them is the detail about Sergio who paid for their round-trip Cebu Pacific flight to Kuala Lumpur as well as the detail about which hotel they stayed in. Sergio also confirmed Veloso’s testimony that they went to shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur to kill time.
But the biggest revelation was Sergio’s confirmation that there were indeed two men who could be behind the smuggling of drugs.
Veloso told the Indonesian court that the luggage where the illegal drugs were found hidden in a secret compartment was given by a certain Mr. I.K, a friend of Sergio’s other boyfriend, a certain Jhon aka Prince Fatu.
“On April 24, 2010, Ms Cristine told the accused (Veloso) that she received a phone call from a person Jhon (Prince Fatu) who said a person with initial I.K. would meet the accused and Ms. Cristine….Also on April 24, 2010, Ms Cristine asked the accused to meet Mr I.K. in the parking area of Sun Inn Langoon Hotel and Mr I.K. gave a black travel bag marked Polo Paite to Ms Cristine and said that the bag was used to carry the clothes of the accused to have vacation in Yogyakarta…,” the court record showed.
Veloso also told the court that Sergio gave her an Air Asia round-trip ticket with Kuala Lumpur as destination and that she had to call Jhon and give him the bag upon arrival in Yogyakarta.
In Sergio’s affidavit, she confirmed there were indeed a certain Jhon and a certain I.K. (pronounced Ayh-Keeh) but insisted these two were strangers who sought to strike a friendship, while they were having snacks in a restaurant near their hotel in Malaysia.
Sergio said the two men approached their table and asked if they could be friends. Sergio said she dismissed the two but observed that they were keenly observing Veloso.
Still ignoring the two men, Sergio said she started paying for their snacks when the waiter told them that the bill had been taken care of by the two strangers.
When she and Veloso were about to leave, the two men asked if they could join them in the hotel. Sergio said she became wary of the two men, but Veloso told her that they apparently only wanted to be friends.
Sergio said she went alone to the hotel, leaving Veloso with the two. When Veloso returned to the hotel, she found out that Veloso had given her contact number to them.
‘Just do the job, it’s simple’…
While they were resting in the hotel, Sergio said the guy who introduced himself as I.K. called Veloso’s number. Sergio said Veloso talked with I.K. and overheard their conversation.
“Sa aking natatandaan, habang nasa tainga ni Mary Jane ang cellphone niya at kausap niya ang lalaki sa kabilang linya ay dinig ko pa din yun boses ng kausap ni Mary Jane sa cellphone na may sinabing ‘Just do the job, it’s simple.’ Nadinig ko pa din ito kahit walang speaker yung cellphone na iyon, dahil naka-todo ang volume sa ear piece nito at magkaharap lang naman kami ni Mary Jane.”
(From what I recall, while the cellphone was on Mary Jane’s ear and while she was talking to the guy on the other line, I could still hear the voice of the one talking to Mary Jane on the cellphone and saying, “Just do the job, it’s simple.” I overheard the other men even if there was no speaker on the cellphone because the volume was put on maximum and I was able to hear their conversation since I was just in front of Mary Jane.)
“Sa puntong ito, pumasok si Mary Jane sa banyo at doon niya itinuloy ang pakikipag-usap sa tumawag sa cellphone niya,” Sergio said. (At this point, Mary Jane went inside the bathroom and continued their phone conversation.)
After the phone conversation, Sergio said Veloso told her that she’s taking the job being offered by the two men.
Sergio said she warned Veloso against negotiating with total strangers but Veloso had already by then made a firm decision.
In a hurry
On April 25, at around 3:45 in the morning, Sergio said she was awakened by hotel staff informing her that the taxi that her companion had asked for had arrived. Surprised, Sergio said she peeped in the window and saw Veloso already boarding the taxi.
At around 6 am, she got a call from Veloso that she was already in the airport but was having trouble with her luggage. Veloso told her that she had exceeded the allowable weight for hand-carries and had to pay for the check-in luggage. Sergio said Veloso told her she’s going to Indonesia.
But their conversation was cut off. And it was the last time she talked with Veloso. The next thing she learned was that Veloso had been arrested in Indonesia for trying to smuggle heroin.
In her counter-affidavit, Sergio said she and Lacanilao could not have been illegal recruiters since it was Veloso who sought help first. In fact, she said Veloso and her family owed them for the Kuala Lumpur airfare which the Velosos have not settled.
She also insisted that the real culprits are out free and that Veloso deserved justice for what had happened to her. – Rappler.com
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