Philippine Daily Inquirer


- By Mariejo S. Ramos @Mariejoram­osinq

Just days before the Oct. 28 hearing on the case of death row convict Mary Jane Veloso, her lawyers, family and supporters have appealed to a local court and the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) to stop blocking her deposition in a traffickin­g case against her recruiters.

The Supreme Court Third Division on Oct. 9 allowed Veloso to make her deposition in a written testimony before the Philippine consular office in Indonesia, where she was sentenced to death in 2010 for being a drug mule.

The ruling also allows the counsel for Veloso’s recruiters to send their written questions to the Yogyakarta prison where she is currently detained.

Despite the high court’s decision, Edre Olalia of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said that PAO lawyers for Veloso’s recruiters, Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, had filed a motion before the Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Court Branch 88 asking it to defer the ruling.

Their motion could delay what could be Veloso’s only chance to defend herself in court, Olalia said.

“Even as a lawyer, my only question [to PAO] is, ‘Why are you afraid of the truth? If you really believe your clients are innocent, why are you blocking [Veloso] from speaking since Day 1?’” said Olalia. “Let’s be human first before we become lawyers.”

Until Oct. 28

But Olalia said he remained confident the local court would honor the Supreme Court ruling.

“[Unless the motion is granted] the only problem here is practical. There would have to be arrangemen­ts between the Philippine and Indonesian government­s on when, how and where (the deposition) is going to be taken. And it would take some time,” Olalia said.

The court has given the defense until Oct. 28 to submit comments to the proposed direct examinatio­n questions of the prosecutio­n.

As an inmate on death row, Veloso is in a “unique circumstan­ce” because she cannot personally testify in court, said Joanna Concepcion of Migrante Internatio­nal which describes Veloso as a victim of human traffickin­g.

In 2010, then 25-year-old Veloso was sentenced to death for smuggling heroin into Indonesia. She would have been executed in 2015 but was saved at the 11th hour with a reprieve from Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Before the high court ruling, the prosecutio­n was supposed to present as witness Consul Shirlene Mananquil who had spoken with Veloso earlier.

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