DOJ approves charges vs Mary Jane Veloso's recruiters

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – The justice department on Thursday, July 9, approved the filing of illegal recruitment, estafa, and qualified human trafficking charges against the recruiters of Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina on Indonesian death row.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) resolved that there is probable cause to indict Maria Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, both of whom are already in jail for a separate large-scale illegal recruitment case.

The qualified human trafficking case was also approved against a certain "Ike," whom Veloso initially tagged in her narrative as having been introduced to her as the brother of Sergio's boyfriend in Malaysia named Prince.

Ike is "equally liable" as human trafficking is a transnational crime, the DOJ resolved. According to Veloso, Ike had provided to her the luggage which contained 2.6 kilograms if heroin underneath its linings – a matter she was unaware of before getting caught by Indonesian authorities.

The cases against the 3 will be filed before a Nueva Ecija court on Friday, July 10.

Prosecutor General Claro Arellano brushed off allegations that the proceedings in relation to Veloso's case was moving at a snail's pace.

"It was prioritized, [and] within the timeframe yung pag conduct (It was prioritized, and the conduct [of preliminary investigation] was with the timeframe [prescribed])," he told Rappler.

Citing rules on preliminary probes, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima earlier said the DOJ probe on complaints against Sergio and Lacanilao will have to "be disposed of within a period of 60 days." 

Complaints against Sergio and Lacanilao came after extensive media coverage on Veloso's case invited public attention.

Sergio and Lacanilao lived together in a house in Talavera town in Nueva Ecija, an hour away from the Velosos in a farming village in neighboring Cabanatuan City. Lacanilao's father was Veloso's godfather in marriage.

Veloso's parents said this made it easier for both Sergio and Lacanilao to gain Veloso's trust when they offered her a fast-tracked job placement in Malaysia as a domestic worker. (READ: The story of Mary Jane Veloso, in her own words)

Veloso is a Filipina who used to work as a domestic worker in Saudi Arabia before she was meted the death penalty in Indonesia over drug smuggling charges.

Her execution has since been delayed pending the legal action in the Philippines against her recruiters.

A high school drop-out and a mother of two, she insists she was framed and duped into unknowingly serving as a drug mule. (WATCH: The fate of Mary Jane Veloso)

Validity of the complaint

In the 18-page resolution ready for signing as early as July 6, the DOJ found no merit in the argument by Sergio and Lacanilao’s lawyers that their right to confrontation was violated as the complainant Veloso herself never appeared before the investigating prosecutor.

Instead, the department cited the validity of Veloso’s affidavit subscribed before Consul Shirlene Maniquil of the Philippine Embassy in Jakarta last March 31

Representatives from the Philippine National Police, the Department of Foreign Affairs, and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency were sent to Indonesia to get Veloso’s statement at the time, given her strong insistence of innocence.

Sergio and Lacanilao had presented an alternative version of the events alleged by Veloso. They said the latter was victimized by two black persons named Ike and John without their knowledge. They denied being part of an international drug syndicate.

The DOJ resolved that Sergio’s outright denial of the allegations against her were outweighed by Veloso’s positive assertion of her illegal acts, coupled with supporting evidence of purchased plane tickets, immigration records showing Sergio’s frequent travels abroad, and the inexistence of the job she promised to Veloso. 

Veloso was "exploited, decieved, made to believe that a job as a domestic helper was available for her in Malaysia,” the resolution read.

“Instead, complainant, without her knowledge and against her will, was made to transport prohibited drugs from Malaysia to Indonesia."

“Ike” is "equally liable” for human trafficking as it is a transnational crime, the DOJ resolved. 

“The evidence speaks of fraud and deception as the means employed by respondents in recruiting complainant,” the resolution read.

The document was signed Assistant State Prosecutor Susan Azarcon, Assistant Senior State Prosecutor Elizabeth Santos, and Arellano. 

Estafa, illegal recruitment

As for Sergio and Lacanilao’s estafa case, the DOJ said Sergio clearly misrepresented herself to Veloso as having the capacity to deploy workers abroad.

It was this false pretense that made Veloso pay her P7,000 in cash and promised P13,000 more through her future salaries as household service worker (HSW). Veloso pawned her mobile phone and tricycle to Sergio as guarantee of the future payment.

Sergio allegedly asked for P20,000 placement fee as Veloso’s recruiter.

HSWs, however, are exempted from placement fees when the application and deployment is done through the legal process.

The DOJ added that Sergio is not licensed to recruit workers based on a certification by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), approving the illegal recruitment case against her and Lacanilao who had helped her out.

Active job orders from destination countries of Filipino workers are coursed through POEA, which releases an overseas employment certificate based on the legitimacy of the recruitment and the job.

The POEA warns against illegal recruiters, stressing the links of the underground industry with drug syndicates.

Overseas employment has been a bait by which syndicates prey on many unsuspecting Filipinos, but the dangers that await illegal employment-related migration are overwhelming and at most times irreparable. (READ: Desire to work abroad exploited by human traffickers) – Rappler.com