A NUEVA Ecija court yesterday found the recruiters of Filipina worker Mary Jane Veloso and three other overseas workers guilty of large-scale illegal recruitment and sentenced them to life imprisonment.
Baloc, Nueva Ecija RTC Branch 88 Judge Anarica Castillo-Reyes said the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of Maria Cristina Sergio and her live-in-partner Julius Lacanilao.
Castillo-Reyes also ordered the two recruiters to pay a fine of P2 million.
“The prosecution having sufficiently established the guilt of both accused, Maria Cristina P. Sergio and Julius Lacanilao beyond reasonable doubt, this Court finds them guilty of large scale illegal recruitment under section 6 in relation to section 7(a) of Republic Act No. 8042 as amended by section 5 of Republic Act 10022,” Castillo-Reyes said in her decision promulgated Thursday.
“All told, the prosecution having sufficiently mustered sufficient evidence to secure a guilty verdict, the Court is left with no other recourse save to render a judgment of conviction,” she added.
The verdict is in relation to the cases filed by overseas Filipina workers Lorna Valino, Jenalyn Paraiso and Ana Maria Gonzales.
The court has yet to act on a similar case filed by Veloso through her parents remains pending her deposition in Jakarta where she has been languishing in prison since her conviction for drug trafficking in 2010.
In finding the defendants guilty, the court junked the claims of Sergio and Lacanilao that they were not in the business of recruiting people to work abroad and have never made such proposals to the complainants.
“However, established in jurisprudence is the rule that denial is an inherently weak defense and that the same cannot prevail over the positive testimonies of the prosecution witnesses,” the court said.
It pointed out that even if complainant Gonzales has executed an affidavit of desistance, it did not affect the credibility of her testimony in court.
“She was able to satisfactorily explain the reason why she executed the same, that due to life’s hardships she barely had time to attend court hearings. However, said private complainant still affirmed her positive assertions that both accused proposed overseas employment to her,” the court said.
The complainants said the respondents recruited and promised them work abroad despite the fact that they did not the license to recruit workers for overseas employment.
Veloso’s legal counsel, lawyer Edre Olalia from the National Union of People’s Lawyers said the verdict will bolster the worker’s pending drug case in Jakarta.
“While legally separate and distinct, this bolsters our case that Mary Jane is herself a victim. The only difference is that unlike the three other victims, she actually proceeded and left for abroad and met her misfortune,” Olalia said.
“We look forward to the full achievement of justice when the other case of Mary Jane is resolved and she herself is ultimately and finally sent home free in time. We all owe it to millions of our fellow citizens who meet misfortune at the hands of unscrupulous people who take advantage of their vulnerabilities,” he added.
Veloso was sentenced to die by firing squad after she was caught with 2.6 kilograms of heroin at an Indonesian airport in 2010. She had claimed that she was only duped into sneaking the illegal drugs from Malaysia into Indonesia.
She was supposed to have been executed by firing squad in April 2015 but Indonesian President Joko Widodo granted her a reprieve to allow Philippine authorities to pursue criminal charges against her alleged illegal recruiters.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and concurrent presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the court’s guilty verdict will not make a dent on Veloso’s death sentence in Indonesia.
“As a lawyer, there is no connection (with the case in Indonesia). She is being charged with a crime there, nothing to do with the conviction of the traffickers here,” Panelo said.
President Duterte, who is known for his stance against illegal drugs, had told Widodo in one of their talks that the Philippines will not interfere with Indonesia’s legal processes. – With Jocelyn Montemayor