MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A Nueva Ecija court found the recruiters of overseas Filipino worker Mary Jane Veloso guilty of illegal recruitment in a separate case – a verdict that Veloso's lawyers said would have a significant impact on her case in Indonesia.
The Baloc, Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 88 sentenced Ma Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao to life imprisonment during the reading of the verdict on Thursday morning, January 30.
Sergio and Lacanilao were also ordered to pay a fine of P2 million.
"The prosecution having sufficiently established the guilt of both accused, Maria Cristina P. Sergio and Julius Lacanilao beyons reasonable doubt, this Court finds them guilty of large scale illegal recruitment under Section 6 in relation to Section 7(a) of Republic Act No. 8042 as amended by Section 5 of Republic Act 10022," Branch Presiding Judge Anarica Castillo-Reyes said in her verdict.
National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL) Spokesperson Josa Deinla said the case was filed by Lorna Valino, Ana Marie Gonzales, and Jenalyn Paraiso.
"We are of course glad that justice has been served even if only partially and initially with respect to Mary Jane’s fellow victims," said NUPL President Edre Olalia.
"Even if their case is distinct from Mary Jane's, we believe that Sergio and Lacanilao's conviction stands as a testament to Mary Jane's story – that she was not a drug courier but an unwitting victim of the same illegal recruiters," Olalia added.
Impact on Mary Jane's case
Veloso has her own trafficking case against Sergio and Lacanilao pending before the same court, but the trial had been on hold because Veloso had yet to testify. (READ: The story of Mary Jane Veloso, in her own words)
Veloso and her lawyers almost lost the chance to have the OFW testify because Lacanilao and Sergio had earlier blocked the testimony.
"Her deposition in Indonesia is still subject to final legal resolution before the RTC and the Supreme Court," the NUPL said.
The NUPL believed that the conviction of Lacanilao and Sergio for illegal recruitment would have a significant impact on Veloso's case.
The lawyers' group, in turn, hoped that if they secured a conviction in the local case, it could also affect Veloso's drug trafficking conviction in Indonesia.
"We look forward to the full achievement of justice when the other case of Mary Jane is resolved and she herself is ultimately and finally sent home free in time. We all owe it to millions of our fellow citizens who meet misfortune at the hands of unscrupulous people who take advantage of their vulnerabilities," said Olalia.
Veloso had claimed that she was only duped to carry illegal drugs, for which she was convicted and put on death row in Indonesia.
Veloso was given a reprieve to give way to the local trial. – Rappler.com