“We are not celebrating the recommendation to recall Consul General Roberto Manalo. But we have to do our duty as it affects people like Mary Jane, and to send a message that they are public servants who must serve the lowly because they need it the most.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – The House of Representatives Committee on Overseas Filipino Affairs has recommended the recall of the Philippine consul general in Jakarta due to the “seriousness of allegations of the family and their counsel” regarding the handling of Mary Jane Veloso’s case.
In a hearing today, Sept. 2, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan manifested that the Department of Foreign Affairs should recall Consul General Roberto Manalo. This was seconded by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate. The committee then voted unanimously in favor of Manalo’s recall.
“We are not celebrating the recommendation to recall Manalo. But we have to do our duty as it affects people like Mary Jane, and to send a message that they are public servants who must serve the lowly because they need it the most,” Edre Olalia, lawyer of the Veloso family and National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers secretary general, told Bulatlat.com.
During the hearing, Mary Jane’s mother Celia narrated how Manalo virtually sowed intrigue between her daughter and the rest of the family. She said that Manalo had deceived Mary Jane into believing that criticizing the government would lead to her execution.
Olalia told lawmakers about Manalo’s “litany of sins,” including how he treated the NUPL as “interlopers or nuisance,” isolated them from the Veloso family in Yogyakarta, violated their lawyer-client confidentiality, attempted to block Mary Jane from issuing a written validation of securing NUPL’s legal service, and did not object to NUPL’s exclusion from their last jail visit in Yogyakarta in April.
Olalia said Manalo also “backstabbed” and “badmouthed,” not just the lawyers, but also migrant rights advocates from Migrante International.
Olalia narrated during the hearing how Manalo kept tab on the consular services extended to the Veloso family in Indonesia in April, telling them off “as if it is your money” for incurring expenses for their hotel, food and transportation.
Manalo later apologized to the Veloso family and to the lawyers. He added that as “God as my witness, I did everything to save Mary Jane.” But Josalee Deinla, NUPL assistant secretary general for education, said these were met with audible hisses from people sitting in the gallery.
Deinla said Manalo was at the brink of tears.
The Veloso family, through their lawyers, is set to file administrative complaints against Manalo. Olalia said they are finalizing affidavits of the family, priests, nuns, members of Migrante International, lawyers from the NUPL, and theater actress Monique Wilson who was also with the Velosos last April in Indonesia.
Mary Jane was set to be executed at dawn of April 29 but it was stayed at the eleventh hour due to mounting local and international protest as her supporters assert she is a victim of human trafficking.
Charges against her recruiter have already been filed before a Sto. Domingo Regional Trial Court in Nueva Ecija province.
Concerned government agencies have long been assailed for not attending to Mary Jane’s case early on. She was only given an embassy-hired lawyer after she was convicted and sentenced to death. Her family in the Philippines said their appeals for help from government were unheeded. The government only stepped up efforts to save Mary Jane when her case was already brought to public attention.
Lack of update
Justice Undersecretary Ricardo Paras provided an update of their last visit in Jakarta. During the hearing, he said, they met with Indonesia’s Prosecutor General and the Ministry of Law and Human Rights.
Deinla said government officials were pointing fingers on who should update the family and their lawyer on Mary Jane’s case.
So far, the NUPL has only received a letter dated Aug. 19, “updating” them that the Department of Justice is tasked to update the lawyers on the case.