Veloso ‘recruiters’ refuse to enter plea on arraignment
CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija—The alleged recruiters of condemned drug mule Mary Jane Veloso refused to enter a plea on human trafficking charges when arraigned on Thursday, prompting a Nueva Ecija court to make a plea of not guilty for them.
Judge Nelson Tribiana of the Regional Trial Court Branch 37 in Sto. Domingo town earlier denied the motion to suspend the arraignment filed by Ma. Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, suspected recruiters of Veloso.
The accused had sought the suspension to allow them time to secure and review the details of a separate human trafficking case filed against them by Veloso.
Sergio and Lacanilao are facing large scale illegal recruitment charges for allegedly luring several Nueva Ecija residents into working abroad even though they had no license to handle overseas job placements.
In prosecuting Sergio and Lacanilao, Veloso’s family said they hoped it would bring to light their argument that Veloso was a victim of human trafficking and had not been aware she was carrying 2 kilograms of heroin in a traveling bag on her way to Indonesia in 2010.
Veloso, who was caught with the heroin at the Indonesian airport, was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death on April 26, 2015. The Indonesian government postponed the execution on the request of Malacañang.
READ: Veloso execution stopped
President Benigno Aquino III had asked for the postponement to allow the government time to prosecute Sergio and Lacanilao, who gave themselves up to the authorities.
Veloso, a mother of two grade school pupils, claimed it was Sergio who brought her to Malaysia from where she flew to Indonesia after being promised a job there as a domestic helper. A foreigner named “Ike” allegedly provided her the travel bag, which contained the heroin.
But Sergio and Lacanilao denied Veloso’s claims. They asked the police to take them into protective custody because of fears that Veloso’s family would hurt them. They were soon charged with illegal recruitment.
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