“We had expected that they would defend themselves and plead that they are not guilty. Pero, hindi ba sila nakokonsensya?”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
CABANATUAN CITY – Mary Jane Veloso’s recruiters entered a “not guilty” plea on the charges of large-scale and syndicated recruitment in a hearing at the Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Court Branch 37 here, today, Aug. 20.
Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao face the charges filed by complainants who surfaced at the height of the campaign to save Mary Jane from execution in April.
The two accused, who are detained at the Nueva Ecija provincial jail in Cabanatuan city, also face charges of qualified human trafficking, estafa and illegal recruitment filed by the Veloso family. The case was also raffled to Branch 37.
“We had expected that they would defend themselves and plead that they are not guilty. Pero, hindi ba sila nakokonsensya?” Celia Veloso, mother of Mary Jane, told Bulatlat.com after the hearing. Mary Jane still sits on death row in Indonesia as the government pursues the case against her recruiters.
The complainants, along with some of the witnesses, were present during the hearing. The Veloso family will stand as witnesses to the complaint.
Edre Olalia, one of the private prosecutors and National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers secretary general, clarified that one of the complainants, Ana Marie Gonzales, did not withdraw nor deny the contents of her testimony against Sergio and Lacanilao, as earlier reported. He said she was merely concerned about the toll of the hearing on their livelihood and daily grind.
Olalia told the media after the hearing that this has been fully clarified and that Gonzales will stand by the case.
The pretrial conference is scheduled on Sept. 18.
The Nueva Ecija court also denied the motion for reconsideration of the defense to dismiss the charges against Sergio and Lacanilao.
Defense counsel Howard Areza of the Public Attorney’s Office, told Bulatlat.com that the judge ruled that their motion was a “mere rehash” of their previous arguments. The defense had argued that the arrest was illegal and that not all the elements of illegal recruitment were fulfilled, as the complainants did not hand money to Sergio and Lacanilao.
Areza said they decided to push through with the arraignment for the trial to begin.
The Veloso family said they are yet to hear from government officials on the updates of Mary Jane’s case in Indonesia.
Mic Catuira, Migrante International deputy secretary general, said they are up for a long fight and their campaign to save Mary Jane continues.