‘Recruiters’ confession big dev’t for Veloso case’
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Friday said the admission of Mary Jane Veloso’s recruiters that they worked for an international drug ring provided hope for the grant of clemency to the maid now sitting on death row in Indonesia.
De Lima said she had yet to see the Philippine National Police report that supposedly contained the confession of Maria Kristina Sergio and her live-in partner, Julius Lacanilao, but she called the report a “big development,” as it established that the drug syndicate existed.
The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) on Friday denied that Sergio and Lacanilao had admitted to working for the drug syndicate and said it would challenge the resolution of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The DOJ filed charges of illegal recruitment in the Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Court yesterday against Sergio and Lacanilao based on its resolution that found probable cause to put them on trial following inquest proceedings on Tuesday.
Veloso’s family has brought separate charges of human trafficking and fraud against Sergio and Lacanilao in the DOJ.
The confession of Sergio and Lacanilao that they worked for the drug ring would validate Veloso’s defense in Indonesia that she was a victim of an international drug syndicate.
De Lima told reporters that if Veloso’s defense is validated then “there’s a big chance” of talks with Indonesian authorities for a grant of clemency to the maid, who was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death by firing squad in 2010.
Veloso was about to be shot on the Indonesian island prison of Nusakambangan early on April 29 when President Joko Widodo stayed her execution after the Philippine government offered to make her a witness against the drug syndicate in the prosecution of Sergio and Lacanilao.
Howard Areza, the lead lawyer from the PAO representing Sergio and Lacanilao, denied that the couple admitted to working for the drug syndicate.
“There is no confession. If there was, why don’t they show the signed statement? I don’t know where they got that, and I don’t know why they included that in their resolution,” Areza told reporters at the DOJ after the first hearing on the charges brought by the family of Veloso.
“I don’t know where they got their facts. So actually, we are studying our legal options. I hope the public will listen to us in our appeal. Don’t be too quick to judge. We still don’t know the whole story,” Areza said.
In the resolution, the DOJ Task Force on Anti-Trafficking in Persons cited “information from both respondents themselves relating to their complicity and/or participation with an international drug syndicate,” which led to Veloso’s arrest in Indonesia after authorities at Yogyakarta airport found 2.6 kilos of heroin in her suitcase.
The resolution cited the modus operandi and details on Sergio’s and Lacanilao’s foreign contacts.