“Mary Jane is not the hard-headed person that Sergio wants to portray. She is easily frightened, has poor sense of direction and would cry easily especially about things that she is not familiar with.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Mary Jane Veloso’s family belied the claims of recruiters Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, who, they said, vilified their family to cover-up their own accountability in the ordeal of the Filipina in death row.
“It is just for Sergio and Lacanilao to say that Mary Jane is innocent as she had no knowledge, consent and intent to traffic drugs. But aside from the few circumstances and details that were correct, the counter-affidavits of Sergio and Lacanilao were intentionally designed and altered to hide their accountability and wrongdoings,” said Mary Jane’s parents, Cesar and Celia, and her sister Maritess, in their joint counter-affidavit submitted during the preliminary investigation at the Department of Justice, May 25.
Meanwhile, the Veloso family requested police protection after a reported harassment and surveillance from men who said the legal process was “slow.”
Sergio and Lacanilao had been charged with illegal recruitment, human trafficking and estafa by the Veloso family and other complainants.
In a joint affidavit, the Veloso family belied Sergio’s claims that it was Mary Jane and her then husband Michael Candelaria who asked them for help to find a job abroad.
Citing Mary Jane’s affidavit, the Veloso family said Sergio offered her a job as a domestic helper in Malaysia, with a monthly salary of P25,000 ($560).
“Sergio and Lacanilao took advantage of the trust that Mary Jane and Michael (Candelaria) gave them as their kinakapatid (godsister),” the joint affidavit read.
Mary Jane was scheduled for execution in Indonesia at dawn of April 29, but was given temporary reprieve to give way to the legal proceedings here in the country, after her recruiters sought police custody.
Sergio and Lacanilao were not present during the third preliminary investigation. Their lawyers explained that they were transferred to the Nueva Ecija Provincial Jail, following a commitment order from the local court in relation to the cases filed by complainants who surfaced after the stay of Mary Jane’s execution.
In an affidavit she executed on March 31, Mary Jane said that while Sergio had no visitors during their short stay in Malaysia in 2010, she was always on the cellphone, talking to someone in English. Mary Jane said it was only Sergio who wanted to go to Indonesia, but she was forced because she did not want to be left alone in their hotel.
Mary Jane, then, flew to Yogyakarta, holding on to Sergio’s promise that a job was waiting for her as soon as she gets back. She also reiterated that it was a certain “Ike,” whom she described as a big, fat, dark-skinned man, who gave her the bag in a parking space in Kuala Lumpur.
Sergio, for her part, claimed that it was Mary Jane who insisted in talking to the two foreigners they met in Kuala Lumpur. The foreigners, she added, offered Mary Jane a “job,” which she claimed the latter agreed to.
She described Mary Jane as “hard-headed.”
“Mary Jane is not the hard-headed person that Sergio wants to portray. She is easily frightened, has poor sense of direction and would cry easily especially about things that she is not familiar with, such as traveling abroad,” the joint affidavit of the Veloso family read.
In a separate affidavit, Mary Jane’s former husband, Michael Candelaria, also belied the allegations by Sergio and Lacanilao that he uses and sells illegal drugs.
“Our life is not a secret in our community and Mary Jane and I lived a decent life,” Candelaria said in his affidavit. Attached were certificates from their village official and local police stating that he has no record of selling and using illegal drugs.
The Veloso family also defended Candelaria, describing allegations from Sergio and Lacanilao as “baseless and selfish.”
“We personally know that he works in a lumpia wrapper factory, sells balot and works as a tricycle driver. His income may be small but he was never involved in any illegal doings, as accused by Sergio and Lacanilao,” the family stressed.
Lawyer Howard Areza of the Public Attorney’s Office said more “value” should be given to the affidavit that Sergio and Lacanilao submitted before the prosecutor. His clients, he said, personally swore before a prosecutor while the Filipina on death row did not.
He also questioned the submission of Mary Jane’s affidavit, which she swore to before a Philippine consul official. Areza cited a Department of Justice manual, which said a public prosecutor should personally evaluate the testimony and the affiant. He added that “it will be an injustice and unfair” to their client.
The Veloso family’s lawyer, Edre Olalia told the media that such is “factually ridiculously and unreasonable,” as Mary Jane is incarcerated abroad and on death row. He cited a 1912 Philippine law which mandates consuls to administer oaths. He added that there is also the 1985 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure which allows that, in the absence of a prosecutor, an affidavit be sworn to before a public official, and if there are none, any notary public.
Toward the end of the hearing, Areza informed public prosecutor Susan Azarcon that Sergio and Lacanilao would not be available in the next hearing, on June 1, as the two were transferred to the Nueva Ecija provincial jail. They would, instead, swear to their rejoinder before a prosecutor in the said province.
“What is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander?” Olalia, who is also National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers secretary general, said in a statement.
After the hearing, Maritess told the media that their family has been gripped by fear after being harassed by three men, who took photos of their house on May 24, the eve of hearing. The men said they were getting impatient on the “slow” legal process on Mary Jane’s case.
The Veloso family has kept mum on Mary Jane’s ordeal for nearly five years, threatened by Sergio, who said that members of an international drug syndicate would go after them.
Migrante International called on the Philippine government to immediately investigate the incidents of harassment of the Veloso family, considering that this was not the first time.
Since they went out in the public and talked about Mary Jane’s case before the media and in protests they have noticed at least two vans – one white and another red – which suspiciously rounded their home. In another incident, motorcycle-riding men asked around their neighborhood, asking where they live.
“Mary Jane’s case is a high-profile case possibly involving big, drug trafficking syndicates. The Veloso family has every right and reason to raise alarm and seek protection. There is an apparent intent by mysterious entities to scare or silence the Velosos who have been consistent in asserting Mary Jane’s innocence, a fact that even Sergio et al had belatedly affirmed in their respective sworn statements,” Migrante International deputy secretary general Mic Catuira said.