Mary Jane Veloso runs to Supreme Court: Let me testify vs my recruiters

MANILA, Philippines – The camp of Mary Jane Veloso ran to the Supreme Court (SC) as a last ditch effort to allow the Filipino overseas worker to testify from her jail in Indonesia against her alleged traffickers.

Veloso’s parents Celia and Cesar filed before the SC on Monday, September 3, a petition that also seeks to temporarily stop the ongoing human trafficking trial in Nueva Ecija against alleged recruiter Ma. Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao.

The prosecution is almost done with its presentation, except for its last witness, Mary Jane.

“Kapag pinilit ang prosekusyon na mag-move on sa kaso ay magre-rest ito na hindi man lang nabibigay ang testimony ni Mary Jane, na sa ating palagay ay nilalabag ang kanyang due process,” said lawyer Jose Deinla from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers.

(If the prosecution is forced to move on with the case, it will rest without even giving the testimony of Mary Jane, which we believe is a violation of her right to due process.)

The 37-page petition is asking for a Status Quo Ante Order (SQAO), which seeks to pause the proceedings, and a reversal of two Court of Appeals (CA) decisions that blocked Mary Jane’s testimony.

The CA granted the petitions of Sergio and Lacanilao, assisted by Public Attorneys Office (PAO) Chief Persida Acosta, who claimed that the testimony will violate their rights as accused to confront their accuser face to face. (READ: SolGen appeals to CA to allow Mary Jane Veloso’s testimony in PH case)

What is Mary Jane asking for? Mary Jane is asking to be allowed to undergo a deposition through written interrogatories from her jail cell in Indonesia.

Mary Jane is on death row there for drug trafficking, but she was given a reprieve by the Indonesian government to give way to the local case that alleges she was only used as a drug mule by her recruiters.

In the process, the camp of Veloso will submit their written questions, and the camp of the recruiters will submit their cross-examination questions, to be approved by the Nueva Ecija judge.

A consul or a Philippine embassy official will ask Mary Jane the questions, while the judge observes. Only the 3 of them can be in the room.

The CA said this violates Section 14(2), Article III of the Constitution as well as Section 1(f), Rule 115 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure which guarantee the right of an accused to cross-examine an accuser face to face. 

The CA instead suggested that Mary Jane’s camp ask the Philippine government to request Indonesia to allow the prisoner to travel to the country and have her trial here.

Deinla said the prosecution has tried to appeal that lawyers of both camps be present in the room as well, but the Indonesian government consented only to the presence of the consular officer and the judge.

The petition invokes the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that says every person shall be entitled to a fair hearing.

“To bar Mary Jane from testifying will prevent the prosecution from fully presenting their case by means of crucial material evidence, thereby denying the victim of her opportunity to finally be heard. This strikes at the very core of the due process guarantee of the Constitution and puts a premium on technicality at the expense of the right of the State to prosecute criminal wrongdoing,” said the petition.

Why is this important? The outcome of the case will significantly affect her fate in the Indonesian death row.

If the Nueva Ecija court finds the recruiters guilty of trafficking, it will bolster her bid in Indonesia to be cleared of drug trafficking.

Mary Jane has been in jail for more than 8 years.

Celia will fly to Indonesia this month to see her daugther, but only for an hour.

“Tumawag si Mary Jane, nagtaka ako nung bibitayin siya, hindi siya umiyak, pero noong isang araw, umiiyak si Mary Jane. Ang sabi, 'Nanay tulungan niyo ako, inip na inip na ako,'” said Celia.

(Mary Jane called, I was surprised because she didn't cry when she was about to be executed, but she cried when she called the other day. She said, "Mother help me, I am getting anxious.")

Celia called on President Rodrigo Duterte, who was criticized by human rights groups for his messaging on Mary Jane’s case. In September 2016, when Duterte met Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Duterte said he will beg mercy for Mary Jane “but if my pleadings fall on deaf ears, I am ready to accept it.”

“Sana naman bago niya ipahingi ‘yung kamatayan ni Mary Jane, alamin niya muna ‘yung totoo na trabaho ni Mary Jane doon,” Celia said.

(I hope that before he surrenders the death of Mary Jane, he should find out first what her real job is.) –

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.