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Protests set vs CA ruling to stop Mary Jane deposition

Mary Jane Veloso’s mother, Celia, at the family home in Nueva Ecija —ARMAND GALANG

GENERAL NATIVIDAD, Nueva Ecija — The family of convicted drug trafficker Mary Jane Veloso said protests may be staged next week following a Court of Appeals (CA) ruling that prevented Mary Jane’s testimony from being used in the human trafficking trial of her recruiters.

Veloso, who would be celebrating her 33rd birthday on Jan. 10, was convicted of drug trafficking in Indonesia but her execution was postponed to allow her to participate in the trial of Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, who recruited Mary Jane.

From the horse’s mouth

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The CA, however, barred a Nueva Ecija judge from securing Mary Jane’s deposition at her jail cell in Indonesia, citing the rules on court testimony.

“Our hopes were dashed that Mary Jane would be able to tell the true story and prove that she was also a victim of drug syndicates,” Mary Jane’s mother, Celia, said on Saturday.

She said the family would continue to fight for her. They were told that protest actions would be mobilized by militant groups like Migrante on Mary Jane’s birthday.

She said she had been assured that other legal remedies were being sought by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, which was representing her family in the case against Sergio and Lacanilao.

According to her, the CA decision made her fearful for the fate of her daughter, who, she said, was relying on the outcome of the human trafficking trial to redeem her and possibly set her free.

A court in Indonesia sentenced Mary Jane to death for smuggling 2.6 kilograms of heroin into that country in 2010, but President Joko Widodo suspended her execution in 2015 to allow her to take part in the Sergio and Lacanilao trial.

Indonesia trip

In 2016, Judge Anarica Castillo-Reyes, of Regional Trial Court Branch 88 in Sto. Domingo town in Nueva Ecija, directed the prosecution lawyers to go to Indonesia and secure Mary Jane’s testimony by taking her deposition (or written account) in the presence of lawyers from the Philippine Public Attorney’s Office, which was representing Sergio and Lacanilao.

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But Sergio and Lacanilao challenged Reyes’ decision in the appellate court, which restrained the Nueva Ecija court last year from proceeding with the deposition.

The two argued that Reyes’ decision violated their right to directly confront their accuser. The CA’s Dec. 15 ruling permanently stopped Reyes from enforcing her order.

Mary Jane a victim

The next hearing was scheduled on Jan. 25 when more demonstrations may be held, according to the Veloso family here.

“Mary Jane is the only one who knows the truth about what happened to her, so when we heard about the CA ruling we wondered and asked, ‘Why is our government this way?’” Celia said.

She added: “I am appealing to President Duterte to find out the truth to confirm that Mary Jane was a victim. We know he abhors drugs but our daughter was a victim and her case should not be abandoned,” she said.

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