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Suspected recruiter emerges; may have saved Veloso

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CABANATUAN CITY, Philippines—On Tuesday morning, Maria Kristina Sergio, the suspected recruiter of Mary Jane Veloso, appeared at the Nueva Ecija provincial police office here to seek protection, citing threats to her and her family.

Little did Sergio know that her appearance would be instrumental in saving Veloso from execution by firing squad in Indonesia.

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On Wednesday, Sergio faced the Inquirer to reiterate her innocence, saying her intention was only to help Veloso find a job abroad.

She said she was not involved in drug trafficking and did not give Veloso the bag in which Indonesian authorities found 2.6 kilograms of heroin at Yogyakarta airport in 2010.

Veloso, who was traveling alone from Kuala Lumpur, was arrested and tried on drug trafficking charges. She was convicted and sentenced to death on Oct. 20, 2010.

Sergio said she was happy about the last-minute reprieve given to Veloso by the Indonesian government late on Tuesday, adding that she was willing to cooperate in any investigation.

“I am happy that Mary Jane got a reprieve for her scheduled execution and, in a way, my appearance before the police here may have helped [her case],” Sergio said.

Protective custody

“But I want to clarify that my live-in partner, Julius Lacanilao, and I did not surrender. My plea for protective custody was for our protection from those who said they would harm us,” she said.

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She said some members of the Veloso family had been threatening her.

‘I’m not a criminal’

Although Sergio had heard that the National Bureau of Investigation had filed estafa, illegal recruitment and human trafficking charges against her and Lacanilao, she said she had not received a copy of the charges and nobody had asked her to give a statement about the case.

“I am not a criminal… If they want to take me [to] her and investigate me, I am willing to do that but please provide me with a lawyer to assist me,” she said. “I would rather be investigated in the headquarters of the Philippine National Police.”

She said she had no lawyer and wanted Persida Rueda-Acosta, chief of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), to represent her.

Sergio spent Tuesday night at the office of Chief Insp. Julius Ceazar Manucdoc, chief of the provincial police counterintelligence special operations group.

Lacanilao and his father, Ramon, accompanied Sergio to the provincial police office at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

Threats

In an interview on Tuesday, Sergio said she received threats after her television interview on her alleged involvement in Veloso’s case was aired last week.

She said she received a call from a man, whom she believed to be Veloso’s estranged husband, Michael Candelaria. “Your days are numbered,” she quoted the caller as telling her.

She said the warning was followed by more calls and text messages from different mobile phone numbers.

“In the first week of April, after my TV interview was aired, I received several phone calls from different people and from the estranged husband of Mary Jane,” she said.

“Then he called again and warned me that if Mary Jane was executed, he would get back at me and my family,” she said in the statement she gave to the police.

She claimed that Veloso’s parents also told her that they would hold responsible all people who were behind the predicament of their daughter, but did not elaborate how the threat was relayed to her.

Supt. Reynaldo de la Cruz, deputy provincial police commander for administration, said Sergio was allowed to move around the PNP compound here or leave the premises because no warrant for her arrest had been issued as of Wednesday morning.

Sergio has not signed any statement.

Police said she signed a waiver indicating that she voluntarily sought protective custody.

At past noon on Wednesday, police said Sergio and Lacanilao were taken to PNP headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Custody approved

As of 7 p.m., the couple were in a meeting with Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, PNP officer in charge Leonardo Espina and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

Roxas annnounced later that Espina agreed to take custody of Sergio and Lacanilao.

“I want to clarify that this does not mean that Sergio has been absolved of the cases against her just because we agreed to provide her protective custody,” Roxas said.

He said President Aquino had yet to be told about Sergio’s presence in Camp Crame.

Roxas said Indonesia would also be informed, as her surrender was among the reasons for the reprieve given to Veloso.–With reports from Marlon Ramos in Manila, and Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon

 

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TAGS: Execution, Indonesia, Maria Kristina Sergio, Mary Jane Veloso, Nueva Ecija, Philippines, recruiter
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