Mary Jane Veloso’s pro bono lawyer Edre Olalia questioned the factual basis for the Public Attorney’s Office to represent the arrested recruiters Ma. Kristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao as they do not appear to be indigents.
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Recruiters of Mary Jane Veloso are facing three charges: large scale illegal recruitment, estafa and human trafficking.
Mary Jane was arrested in 2010 for smuggling 2.6 kilograms of heroin in Indonesia. She was sentenced to die by firing squad on the same year.
Ma. Kristina Sergio and her live-in partner Julius Lacanilao have been under the government’s protective custody since April 28. Their surfacing is said to have contributed to the stay of execution of Mary Jane by Indonesian authorities to give way to Philippine legal proceedings.
The two recruiters were arrested and subjected to inquest proceedings last May 6. Their arrest has brought relief to the Veloso family.
The Department of Justice, in a memorandum dated April 29, has formed a 20-member task force to handle the case of Mary Jane.
In a DOJ inquest resolution dated May 7, Sergio allegedly have connections with an international drug syndicate that operates in Manila, Hongkong and Malaysia while the luggage that contained the heroin was handed to Veloso by a certain “Iky” or “Ike,” a Nigerian national.
Sergio’s travel records, as stated in the resolution, showed that she was a frequent traveler in 2009 to 2010. She left the country 10 times during the two-year period and once in 2011. Her destinations were Malaysia, Hongkong, Thailand, and Singapore.
After the hearing, lawyer Howard Areza of the Public Attorney’s Office who represents the two accused, told the media that the DOJ did not present along with the inquest resolution a copy of a written confession.
“They are also happy in the stay of execution of Mary Jane. But this should not be done at the expense of violating their [Sergio and Lacanilao] constitutional rights,” he said.
So far, Philippine authorities have confirmed that another Filipina recruited by Sergio is currently detained in Hongkong for allegedly carrying 800 grams of heroin.
On PAO representation
There was a brief exchange between Areza and Veloso’s pro bono lawyer Edre Olalia when the latter asked what is the factual basis for the PAO to represent Sergio and Lacanilao as they do not appear to be indigents.
Areza read a certificate of indigence issued by officials of Esguerra village in Talavera, Nueva Ecija, which stated that “they do not fully know” Sergio. He stopped reading the document and proceeded to read Lacanilao’s certificate of indigence, adding that Sergio is covered as they are live-in partners.
Areza later told the media “it was a mistake.”
He said Sergio and Lacanilao were referred to them by a television journalist. And that their services remain “provisional,” a continuation when Mary Jane’s recruiters first asked for assistance, citing threats to their life.
Another basis, he added, is that the two are incarcerated and have no jobs. But Olalia replied that all detained have no jobs but not all are being represented by PAO.
Olalia, after the hearing, said that as human rights lawyers they would be the first to ensure that the respondents’ rights are respected. Providing free legal representation to someone who can afford to go in and out of the country deprives those who are really in need.
“It is all part of the script,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mary Jane’s former partner Michael Candelaria was not allowed to swear in his affidavit as evidence against the recruiters because he forgot to bring his ID. Areza said they could not be sure if the one swearing in the affidavit is really Candelaria.
Both parties agreed that Candelaria would submit his affidavit before the DOJ on Monday, May 11.
Olalia said that as is, they have sufficient evidence against the recruiters but Candelaria’s sworn statement would further strengthen it.
Integrity of legal proceedings
Olalia, also the secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), said if the accused are really innocent, it is in their interest to speed up the proceedings. The defense lawyers asked for a 20-day extension for the submission of their counter-affidavit. But at the same time, the Velosos want to maintain the integrity of the the proceedings so that it would not be questioned by Indonesian authorities.
The lawyers of Mary Jane Veloso, both Filipino private pro bono and Indonesian lawyers, said one of the options is to file a third application for judicial review if there is a positive resolution out of the legal proceedings here in the country.
Josalee Deinla, NUPL assistant secretary general for education, said the lawyers of the recruiters are resorting to an “obstructionist approach” as they could not come up with a strong defense.