CA junks SolGen appeal to allow Mary Jane Veloso's out-of-court testimony

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In 2015, Mary Jane Veloso became the face of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who have fallen victim to human trafficking, as well as those languishing in death row on foreign soil.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 8) — The Court of Appeals (CA) upheld its earlier ruling that Filipino death row inmate Mary Jane Veloso cannot testify against her alleged illegal recruiters unless she comes home to the Philippines from Indonesia.

In an eight-page decision signed June 5, the CA rejected the motion for reconsideration filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida on January 16. A copy of the CA's ruling was released to the media on Friday.

Calida sought the reversal of the appellate court's December 2017 decision that stopped Veloso from testifying in the illegal recruitment, estafa, and human trafficking charges against Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, who allegedly tricked her into smuggling drugs in Indonesia in 2010.

The CA on Tuesday denied the motion for reconsideration "for lack of merit."

It reminded Calida, the government's top lawyer, of the "supremacy of the Constitution," saying the right of the accused to meet the witnesses face to face is a fundamental right under the 1987 Constitution.

Allowing Veloso to issue an out-of-court testimony would violate this provision, the CA said.

Lawyer Edre Olalia called the CA's ruling "a nitpicking purely legalistic approach devoid of any social context or divorced from concrete reality."

He said they are taking the matter up to the Supreme Court.

Veloso, detained in Yogyakarta, was sentenced to death in October 2010 after Indonesian authorities found her with 2.6 kilograms of heroin in her suitcase. She was supposed to be executed in April 2015, but she was granted a last minute reprieve.

The CA said the government should instead convince Indonesia to allow Veloso to temporarily return to the Philippines to testify.

"The Philippine government can request with the consent of Indonesia to temporarily transfer the custody of Mary Jane Veloso to the Philippine government to allow her for a limited period to testify in the Philippine courts," the CA said, citing article 15 of the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal matters, which both Philippines and Indonesia signed.

The Sto. Domingo, Nueva Ecija Regional Trial Court, earlier allowed Veloso to send a testimony against her recruiters, but this was reversed by the CA.

In January, Veloso asked for President Rodrigo Duterte to help her testify in the case against her alleged recruiters.

"Pangulong Duterte, buong puso po akong humihingi ng tulong sa inyo para payagan akong magtestigo sa kaso ni Cristina Sergio doon sa Pilipinas para maibunyag ang katotohanan at maparusahan ang taong talagang may kasalanan," Veloso said through a recording from detention, played at her birthday celebration in Quezon City.

[Translation: President Duterte, I'm wholeheartedly asking for your help to allow me to testify in the case of Christina Sergio in the Philippines so that I can unravel the truth and those who are at fault can be duly penalized.]