CA blocks Veloso testimony on human trafficking raps vs recruiters

MANILA-- The Court of Appeals issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping drug mule Mary Jane Veloso from testifying in the criminal case against her recruiters from her detention cell in Indonesia.

In a three-page resolution dated March 24 penned by Associate Justice Associate Justice Ramon Bato Jr. and concurred by Associate Justices Manuel Barrios and Renato Francisco, the CA's 11th Division granted the immediate relief sought in the petition filed by Veloso's detained recruiters, couple Ma. Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao for it to issue a temporary restraining order and or writ of preliminary injunction for the deposition set for April 27 as ordered by Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Court Branch 88 Judge Anarica Castillo-Reyes.

"Finding the instant petition to be sufficient in form and substance, in order to maintain the status quo ante as well as preserve the rights of the parties during the pendency of the instant petition and not to render ineffectual whatever judgment that may be rendered by this Court, let a temporary restraining order be issued, effective for 60 days from notice hereof, unless sooner lifted, enjoining and directing the respondents to cease and desist from implementing the assailed resolutions during the effectivity thereof and until further orders from this Court," CA said.

The TRO specifically directed Castillo-Reyes and the government "to cease and desist from implementing the assailed resolutions during the effectivity thereof and until further orders from this Court."

The CA explained that the TRO was necessary "in order to maintain the status quo ante as well as preserve the rights of the parties during the pendency of the instant petition and not to render ineffectual whatever judgment that may be rendered by this Court."

Sergio and Lacanilao, who are facing human trafficking charges filed by the family of Veloso, earlier argued that securing a written deposition would be prejudicial to their constitutional rights to confront the witnesses face to face which they added is guaranteed under Section 14, Paragraph 1 of the Constitution.

They said allowing the deposition would also be contrary to the previous ruling of the Supreme Court in Vda De Manguerra vs Risos wherein the high court categorically declared that taking of deposition through written interrogatories is applicable only in civil cases and not in criminal cases.

Meanwhile, lawyer Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers, which is representing Veloso in the case expressed disappointment over the CA resolution.

"It is with utter disappointment and unfathomable frustration to learn that the Philippine Court of Appeals, upon the instance of the recruiter's defense, just recently issued an order restraining the long overdue deposition of convicted migrant worker Mary Jane Veloso in Indonesia," Olalia said in a statement.

"We shall not stop exhausting all fair legal means in combination with decisive political action to ensure that she is allowed to speak the truth, the whole truth & nothing but the truth," he added.

He noted that a victim of injustice several times over, distressed migrant workers like Mary Jane expect from her compatriots not only to uphold fairness, reason and justice but also to demonstrate empathy and conscience at the very least.

In its ruling in August last year, the RTC allowed the taking of Veloso's deposition from the Indonesian jail by the Philippine consulate in the presence of the judge.

The recruiters argued in their petition before the CA that the deposition would violate Section 14(2), Article III of the Bill of Rights in Constitution, which required that they confront Veloso face-to-face.

Olalia said the Nueva Ecija court ruling would allow his client to "finally be given the opportunity to testify and tell her story."

Olalia said the local court was right in allowing the deposition since Veloso who is on death row in Indonesia cannot appear before the court to personally give her testimony.

Veloso said she was duped by Sergio and Lacanilao into bringing the drug-laden luggage to Indonesia in 2010 where she was arrested upon her arrival at the Yogyakarta airport.

The death sentence on Veloso was temporarily halted last April 29, 2015 after then President Benigno Aquino III appealed her case to Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Source: Philippines News Agency