File photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday, May 7, bared in greater detail the information gathered by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) about Maria Cristina Sergio's alleged participation in an illegal drug trade.
"Sergio narrated that the drug operations conducted by the international drug syndicate that she is connected with operated within and outside the Philippines, as she had several co-conspirators in Manila, Hongkong, and Malaysia," read an 18-page resolution released to the media.
The DOJ resolution said the NBI had learned that Sergio and her partner and co-accused Julius Lacanilao "actively participated in the growing drug trade, and that their modus operandi was to recruit willing and/or unwilling participants."
Lacanilao was known as "Supremo" in the "underworld drug community," the NBI learned.
As early as 2010, Sergio and Lacanilao were drug mules of a Western African Drug Syndicate cell led by Samuel EzeKalu alias Sam, a Nigerian national who lived in Kepong, Malaysia, the resolution bared.
Travel records also showed that Sergio went abroad 5 times in 2009 and 2010, and once in 2011. She frequented Malaysia, Hongkong, Thailand, and Singapore.
Sergio gave the names of her contacts in each of these countries in relation to the drug operations, the NBI said.
The subject DOJ resolution approved the indictment of Sergio and Lacanilao for illegal recruitment, and recommended further preliminary probe charges of human trafficking and estafa against them.
The NBI information affirms the claims of Veloso's parents that Sergio gained her income from drug-related activities. (READ: Mary Jane Veloso a drug smuggler? Look at our home, parents say)
Sergio is accused of duping Filipino death row convict Mary Jane Veloso into smuggling 2.6 kilograms of heroin to Indonesia.
Sergio lives with Lacanilao, whose father was Veloso's godfather in marriage.
Veloso's parents said this made it easier for 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)
A high school drop-out and a mother of two, Veloso insists she was framed and duped into becoming an unwitting drug mule. (WATCH: The fate of Mary Jane Veloso)
'Null and void'
Public Attorney's Office (PAO) chief Persida Rueda-Acosta, who acts as Sergio's counsel, said there was never a confession from Sergio. (READ: Sergio's counsel denies she admitted being drug mule)
Any such confession would be null and void, she said.
Acosta said they will challenge the continued detention of Sergio, who did not have a standing warrant at the time of her arrest.
The DOJ resolved, however, that the arrest was legal following the inquest proceedings.
"After a painstaking evaluation of the evidence at hand, the undersigned is convinced that the NBI-AHTRAD's arrest of respondents is valid pursuant to Section 5(b), of Rule 113 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure," the DOJ resolution read.
The resolution was prepared by Assistant State Prosecutor Mark Roland Estepa, recommended by Senior State Prosecutor Lilian Doris Alejo, and approved by Prosecutor General Claro Arellano.
Acosta countered by saying the inquest proceedings were invalid, adding that the DOJ had failed to file the illegal recruitment case within the 36-hour prescribed period after the inquest proceedings. – Rappler.com