“Mary Jane Veloso is innocent and was only duped into carrying illegal drugs to Indonesia by two men we met in Malaysia.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – The Veloso family and lawyers welcomed the statement by Ma. Cristina Sergio, Mary Jane’s recruiter, who said that the latter was only a victim of drug traffickers.
“Mary Jane Veloso is innocent and was only duped into carrying illegal drugs to Indonesia by two men we met in Malaysia,” Sergio said in her counter-affidavit submitted during the preliminary investigation at the Department of Justice on May 20.
Mary Jane was arrested and sentenced to death in Indonesia in 2010 for smuggling in 2.6 kilograms of heroin. She has maintained her innocence and said that it was Sergio’s friends who lent her the bag, where the heroin was secretly stashed in. At dawn of April 29, Indonesian President Joko Widodo gave her temporary reprieve to give way to the legal proceedings here in the Philippines on the charges she filed against her recruiters.
“I had goose bumps when I heard the news. We have been waiting for this for five long years. Why only now? But still, we are happy about this development,” Maritess Veloso-Laurente, Mary Jane’s sister, told Bulatlat.com in Filipino after the preliminary investigation.
Edre Olalia, private lawyer of the Veloso family, told the media that they welcome Sergio’s “change of heart and mind” and that their Indonesian counterparts, lawyers from the Rudyantho and Partners, have been waiting for such clear and categorical statement.
However, he said they will contest some of Sergio’s claims which cover up her complicity and vilify the Veloso family.
Celia, Mary Jane’s mother, told the media, “This would be of help. Mary Jane has nothing to do with all of these.”
Sergio and her live-in partner Julius Lacanilao is detained at the National Bureau of Investigation on charges of illegal recruitment, human and drug trafficking filed by Mary Jane and other victims. She has denied the charges and asked for the dismissal of these for lack of probable cause.
“We will traverse Sergio’s self-serving version of the surrounding circumstances to cover her own complicity. We will file reply-affidavits to reiterate the whole unembellished facts as they are. Additionally, we shall contest the inexplicable vilification she made against Mary Jane’s family,” Olalia said in a statement.
“All these with the end in view of pursuing in earnest to make Mary Jane’s reprieve permanent and to bring an innocent victim home eventually to her two little boys,” Olalia, who is also National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) secretary general, said.
Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said in an ambush interview that Sergio’s statement is a “good indicator” and proof “that we are on right track.” She said they would bring this before Indonesian authorities.
In her counter-affidavit, Sergio narrated her experience as an undocumented overseas Filipino worker in Dubai 2005 to 2007 and her attempt to find work in Malaysia back in November 2009. In January 2010, she and Lacanilao began a business.
On April 18, 2010, she claimed that Mary Jane and her then husband Michael Candelaria asked if they could borrow money from them. The two, she said, offered to pawn their tricycle so they could have money for Mary Jane to find work abroad. Sergio said she did not take the tricycle because it was already old.
It was Mary Jane, Sergio said, who asked if she could come with her to find work in Malaysia, in place of Lacanilao whose passport had yet to be issued. The following day, Sergio said Mary Jane returned and, in tears, begged to come with her to Malaysia. She claimed that they agreed out of pity.
They left for Kuala Lumpur on April 22, 2010, at around 1 a.m.
During their stay in Kuala Lumpur, Sergio said they were always together. She also said they went shopping, and that Mary Jane bought several clothes and a cellphone. A certain Filipina named Cecil promised Mary Jane that the latter could take her place as domestic helper as soon as her contract ends.
On April 24, 2010, Sergio claimed they met two men who introduced themselves as “John” and “Ike.” Sergio said she told Mary Jane to ignore the two men, whom she noticed was staring at Mary Jane. After eating at a restaurant, they later learned that the men paid for their meal.
One of the men said they wanted to be friends with the two. Sergio said she did not want to talk to them but Mary Jane stayed behind. Mary Jane returned to their room after 15 to 20 minutes and said she was offered a job to carry a hand bag either to Thailand or Singapore. Sergio claimed she warned Mary Jane that there might be something hidden in the bag to which she replied, “Hindi naman siguro, Ate (I hope not, big sister).”
In her counter-affidavit, she said that Mary Jane left their hotel room without informing her.
Sergio then met her would-be employer but was informed later that day that her mother was brought to the hospital. This, she said, prompted to her to go back to the country to take care of her ill mother.
On May 12, 2010, she said Mary Jane’s sister Laurente went to her house, accusing her of sending her sister to jail in Indonesia.
Sergio said the threats from Mary Jane’s family and the protest in front of their house made them decide to ask for police custody.
In Mary Jane’s account, it was Sergio who bought all the clothes for her. When she complained that it would no longer fit in the bag she brought, Sergio told her that someone would lend her a bag. This bag was handed to them in a parking lot.
Mary Jane said she asked why the bag was heavy and even checked if the bag contained anything else. But she found it empty. She also said it was Sergio who told her to go to Indonesia to meet her friends there as her employer in Kuala Lumpur has already hired someone else.
Sergio belied in her counter-affidavit that she is a member of any criminal group, adding that if agents of the National Bureau of Investigation were doing surveillance on them, they should have been long arrested.
The Veloso family has said that Sergio told them that she belongs to a drug syndicate, which would spend millions to get Mary Jane out of jail. They said Sergio even threatened them that they would be killed if they talk to anyone about the case.
Sergio claimed she only met Mary Jane’s parents Cesar and Celia on May 5 at the National Bureau of Investigation office, where they were arrested. She also claimed that it was only her second time to meet Laurente at the hearing on May 12.
Sergio’s counsels also submitted the sworn affidavits of 10 witnesses. Josalee Deinla, NUPL assistant secretary general for education, said most of the affidavits of the witnesses vouch for Sergio and Lacanilao as “good people” and state that they were surprised that the two were implicated in Mary Jane’s case.
Mary Jane’s former husband Candelaria told Bulatlat.com that they only know three out of the 10 defense witnesses. One of them, a certain Monina Soriano, is their neighbor who even went to their house on April 7 to narrate how Sergio has attempted to recruit her.