Complainant vs Mary Jane Veloso's recruiters backs out

MANILA, Philippines – One of the complainants against the alleged illegal recruiters of Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipino worker who is on death row in Indonesia, filed a statement withdrawing her charges on Wednesday, August 5.

Ana Marie Gonzales, one of the 3 complainants against Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, said in her statement that she will no longer pursue the criminal case against the recruiters.

According to the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) lawyer Howard Areza, who represents Sergio and Lacanilao, if the court grants Gonzales’ withdrawal from the case, the charges against his clients will be downgraded to simple illegal recruitment, which is a bailable offense.

The two other complainants were Lorna Valino and Jenalyn Paraiso.

The alleged illegal recruiters are being tried at a regional trial court in Nueva Ecija. Indonesian authorities are awating the outcome of the case against them. Once they are proven guilty, the verdict will be an evidence that the Indonesian court will consider to spare Veloso from the death penalty.

Areza said Gonzales came to their district office in Talavera, Nueva Ecija, and claimed she did not know that her signed affidavit would lead to a case against the recruiters.

She also claimed that she was deceived by Mary Jane Veloso’s family, thinking her affidavit was only intended to help Veloso’s case in Indonesia, according to Areza.

“Siguro inisip niya baka makatulong, para hindi mabitay si Mary Jane, gumawa siya ng salaysay. Hindi niya alam na matutuloy sa demandahan na kakasuhan sila…na mauuwi sa pagkakakulong 'yung dalawa,” Areza said.

(She might have thought that the affidavit would help Mary Jane's case, preventing her execution. She did not know that this would lead to a trial which could have Sergio and Lacanilao jailed.)

Areza added that the case against Sergio and Lacanilao was only part of an “effort” to help stop Veloso’s execution and to show the Indonesian government that the Philippine government was doing something.

The court has yet to consider Gonzales’ recent statement and has not allowed her to testify because it was still hearing the motion for reconsideration to dismiss the case.

“The statement is already on their records, 'pinapaalam lang namin sa court na one of the complainants is already withdrawing her case,” Areza added. (We just wanted to let the court know that one of the complainants was already withdrawing her case.)

The PAO lawyer said they would have to wait for the court’s ruling on their motion for reconsideration before putting Gonzales on the witness stand in another arraignment.

On May 7, a large-scale illegal recruitment case against Sergio and Lacanilao was approved based on the testimonies of the 3 alleged victims. 

The prosecutors recommended no bail since there were at least 3 complainants, making the crime large-scale illegal recruitment.

“The recent development will not affect the case of Mary Jane Veloso against Sergio because her case will be tried in a different proceeding, which has yet to start,” said Areza.

Sergio, Lacanilao, and an African named “Ike,” were tagged for allegedly tricking Veloso into smuggling 2.6 kilograms of heroin into Indonesia.

The Department of Justice filed charges of illegal recruitment, estafa, and qualified human trafficking against the 3. – Rappler.com