File photo by Jose Del/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – The alleged recruiter of Filipino-on-death-row Mary Jane Veloso never confessed complicity in an illegal international drug trade, Public Attorney's Office (PAO) chief Persida Rueda-Acosta told Rappler.
In a phone interview on Thursday, May 7, Acosta slammed the Department of Justice (DOJ) for citing hearsay information in its resolution detailing a supposed confession by Veloso's alleged trafficker and illegal recruiter Maria Cristina Sergio.
Acosta challenged the DOJ to come up with a document Sergio signed attesting to the confession the department claimed.
She regarded as "unfair" and "trial by publicity" the DOJ's move to disclose details of a supposed admission by Sergio.
"I asked the panel of special PAO attorneys na (who are) assigned sa kanila (to them). Attorney Howard Areza said there is no confession," Acosta stressed.
Acosta said the confession bared by the DOJ is "null and void." Its self-incriminating nature, especially without the benefit of legal advice from counsel, would make it "unconstitutional," she said.
The circumstances surrounding the alleged admission was vaguely indicated in the DOJ resolution.
Through the PNP
In its 18-page resolution released also on Thursday, the DOJ said "the NBI-AHTRAD (National Bureau of Investigation Anti-Human Trafficking Division), through the PNP (Philippine National Police), was able to gather information from both respondents themselves, relating to their complicity."
The resolution approved the indictment for qualified illegal recruitment – or illegal recruitment of 3 or more people – of Sergio as well as her partner and co-accused Julius Lacanilao.
"Particularly, respondent Sergio narrated that the drug operations conducted by the international drug syndicate that she is connected with operated within and outside the Philippines, as she had several co-conspirators in Manila, Hongkong, and Malaysia," the resolution read.
Acosta said PAO will challenge the continued detention of Sergio, who did not have a standing warrant at the time of her arrest.
The DOJ had resolved that the arrest was legal following the inquest proceedings and "a painstaking evaluation of the evidence at hand."
Acosta countered by saying the inquest proceedings were invalid, adding that the DOJ had failed to file the illegal recruitment case within the 36-hour prescribed period after the inquest proceedings.
In a text message even prior to the release of the DOJ resolution, Acosta had said that "Sergio says she is not [a drug mule.]"
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.