Victim’s retraction won’t affect case vs. recruiters, De Lima says
Mary Jane Veloso's case against her alleged illegal recruiters, Ma. Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, would not suffer despite a desistance from another victim in a separate criminal case against the two.
This was the assurance from Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Thursday, when asked about a sworn statement from victim Anna Marie Gonzales withdrawing the large-scale illegal recruitment case she had filed against Sergio and Lacanilao before the Regional Trial Court Branch 37 in Baloc, Sto. Domingo, Nueva Ecija.
"It involves different victims, then these are different cases and therefore would have no effect sa kaso ni Mary Jane... It's okay. Separate cases naman iyon," said De Lima.
Originally joining Gonzales in the case were Lorna Valino and Jenalyn Paraiso. The three earlier said they were enticed by the two to work either as domestic helpers, factory workers, salesladies, househelpers and/or manicurists in Malaysia, Indonesia or Japan.
"Ako ay hindi na interesado na ipagpatuloy pa ang habla laban kina Ma. Cristina Sergio at Julius Lacanilao," said Gonzales in her sworn affidavit. "Dahil dito, aking hinihiling sa kagalang-galang na hukom na ipawalang bisa na ang aking habla laban sa nabanggit na mga akusado."
The development could be taken as a setback in the efforts to save Veloso, a single mother, from the death sentence in Indonesia, where she was caught and convicted for drug smuggling. Her execution was stayed in late April so she could testify first against her alleged recruiters.
But De Lima pointed out that Gonzales' case was not the only pending case against Veloso's recruiters.
"Whether or not it's true that the complainant has withdrawn from the case, meron pa namang iba. The cases are still there, lalo na yung case mismo na finile as complaining witness si Mary Jane mismo," said De Lima.
The Justice secretary also said the Nueva Ecija court handling the illegal recruitment case will have the final say whether to allow the withdrawal of the case.
"Ang affidavit of desistance... pinagdududahan iyan. Hindi kaagad iyan tinatanggap. Aalamin unang-una kung voluntary yung pag-withdraw ng complaint, you know, he/she is not under duress or may ibang mga consideration in withdrawal of the complaitn. So it's not automatic," said De Lima.
The Justice secretary said she was certain the judge handling the case would be "circumspect" in considering Gonzales' retraction.
Veloso was found guilty of drug trafficking in Indonesia and sentenced to death by firing squad. Her execution was stayed at the last minute in late April so she could testify first against her alleged recruiters in the Philippines. — RSJ, GMA News