“Mary Jane keeps on asking why it is taking so long. She asked why government lawyers representing Tintin (Maria Cristina Sergio)’have so many excuses, which has led to the delay of the case proceedings.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – A Nueva Ecija trial court said the arraignment of Mary Jane Veloso’s recruiters will push through on Nov. 11, after the prosecution particularized the grounds for which they are being charged.
In a resolution dated Oct. 23, Judge Nelson Tribiana of the Sto. Domingo Regional Court Branch 37 said that the prosecution was able to comply with the request of the motion of the defense to particularize the “exploitative purpose” of the qualified human trafficking charged against Mary Jane’s recruiters Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao.
On Sept. 18, the defense lawyers asked Tribiana to defer the arraignment for the qualified human trafficking charge, and filed a motion for bill of particulars. Their lawyer Howard Areza told Bulatlat.com in a previous report that it was meant to clarify what exactly his clients violated and what exactly the “scheme” meant.
Republic Act 9208, or the Anti-Human Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 stated that among the exploitative purposes are prostitution, pornography, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, involuntary servitude or debt bondage.
The prosecution, in its opposition submitted before the court, said the enumerated “exploitative purpose” in the law was not meant to limit but serve as a minimum.
In his four-page decision, Judge Trebiana agreed with the prosecution that the “exploitative purpose” as ground for the filing of qualified human trafficking is “the use of private complainant Mary Jane Veloso as an unwitting drug courier to Indonesia.”
Trebiana also denied the request of Sergio and Lacanilao for the prosecution to secure copies of court records from Indonesia. He said that the court found it “unnecessary and immaterial to the issue in this case.” He said Mary Jane’s incarceration is “rather the outcome and not an element of the offense in which the accused are being charged.”
Sergio and Lacanilao entered a not guilty plea on the estafa and illegal recruitment charges filed by the Veloso family on Sept. 18. The two also face separate charges from four other women. Both entered a not guilty plea for these charges.
Mary Jane is currently incarcerated and remains in death row in Indonesia. She was arrested and sentenced more than five years ago for carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin. Her family decried that Mary Jane did not receive legal assistance from the government. Her execution was stayed at dawn of April 29 due to strong public outcry.
In a joint statement, Mary Jane’s lawyers Edre Olalia and Josalee Deinla described the filing for the motion for bill of particulars as “the latest of multiple moves filed through the accused’s counsel Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) to delay the cases through nitpicking and hairsplitting fetishism.”
Maritess Veloso-Laurente, Mary Jane’s sister, told Bulatlat.com that their family welcomes the court decision and are happy that all the cases against her recruiters are finally moving forward.
“(Mary Jane) keeps on asking why it is taking so long. She asked why government lawyers representing Tintin (Sergio) have so many excuses, which has led to the delay of the case proceedings,” she said.