• DOJ chief sees hope for convicted drug mule

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    THE DEPARTMENT of Justice (DOJ) is hopeful the execution of convicted drug mule Mary Jane Veloso won’t push, through pending the litigation of a criminal case against her alleged recruiters.

    Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd said that while President Rodrigo Duterte respects the laws of Indonesia, the Indonesian government was expected to continue the suspension of the execution of Veloso.

    “Their judicial process is waiting for the outcome of the case in the Nueva Ecija court. So I believe that Indonesia will still keep an indefinite action on the case of Mary Jane precisely because of the Nueva Ecija case,” Aguirre said.

    The alleged illegal recruiters, Maria Cristina Sergio and her live-in-partner Julius Lacanilao, are being tried at the Santo Domingo, Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 88 for large-scale illegal recruitment.

    The execution of Veloso was suspended on April 29, 2015 after the Philippine government appealed her case to Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

    Veloso claimed she was duped by Sergio and Lacanilao into bringing heroin to Indonesia in 2010, where she was arrested upon her arrival at the Yogyakarta airport.

    The DOJ chief said the possibility of the release of Veloso could depend on the outcome of the pending cases against Sergio and Lacanilao.

    “For example, if the Nueva Ecija court rules that Mary Jane is indeed a victim and that the liability is with the syndicate that preyed on her, then Mary Jane could be released in the eyes of Indonesian law, [as]she is merely a victim and actually not guilty of the charges against her,” Aguirre pointed out.

    Mistaken reports
    Aguirre also said there was a mistake in media reports on Duterte’s statements during his meeting with Widodo in Indonesia early this month.

    The DOJ chief denied that Duterte gave the go-signal for Veloso’s execution. It was later on clarified that he only expressed respect for Indonesia’s legal processes.

    “I really didn’t believe that the President would give that go-signal for the execution of Mary Jane because we all know that Indonesia and the Philippines are both independent countries. They have their own foreign policy and they have to enforce their laws,” he said.

    The Philippine consulate in Indonesia is set to get the deposition or testimony of Veloso on the large-scale illegal recruitment cases against Sergio and Lacanilao as ordered by RTC Judge Anarica Castillo-Reyes.

    However, the Public Attorney’s Office on Wednesday opposed the Nueva Ecija court’s decision to secure the testimony of Veloso.

    Filing on behalf of Sergio and Lacanilao, the PAO told the Nueva Ecija RTC Branch 88 that the deposition would be against the constitutional right of the accused.

    “The [basic constitutional right of the accused]to confrontation and meeting the witnesses against them face to face shall be violated if the court will let itself be wrongfully used as a tool to conduct the deposition proceedings that may expose the entire judiciary into mockery of justice and judicial processes,” the PAO manifestation read.

    The PAO cited Section 14, Paragraph 2 of the Bill of Rights, which gives, among others, an accused the right to a speedy, impartial, and public trial and meet the witnesses face to face, and to have a compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence.

    Judge Castillo-Reyes will reportedly fly to Indonesia this month to get Veloso’s statements that could support the illegal recruitment case against Sergio and Lacanilao.

    PAO Chief Persida Acosta said the prosecution of Sergio and Lacalinao was “erroneous” and that the two were “being used as sacrificial lambs to save a convicted drug mule.”

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