By Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News
They were once a family, though not always a happy one.
On one hand is Henedina Laurel-Velasco and her siblings, descendants of Dr. Jose Rizal, their great-grand uncle. On the other is Mary Ann Manansala-Laurel, who came from rather humbler beginnings in Malabon.
Their common denominator was Mario Laurel, brother to Henedina and husband to Mary Ann for almost 22 years. Mario and Mary Ann had three children.
Mario’s siblings and ex-wife found themselves together again on Monday, though on opposite sides in a court room in Quezon City.
Mary Ann and their son Patrick stand accused of killing Mario on Sept. 2, 2007. Judge Bernelito Fernandez is hearing Mary Ann’s petition for bail.
She was arrested at the airport last April 5 on her way back to the United States. She has since been detained at the Quezon City Jail Female Dormitory. Her son is in the U.S.
Allegedly upon his mother’s instructions, Patrick pulled the plug on Mario, who was then in a coma. Mario’s siblings sued Mary Ann and her son for murder, but the case was dismissed by the prosecutor.
In 2010, the Department of Justice reversed the prosecutor’s ruling and ordered the filing of parricide charges against Mary Ann and her son.
“Clearly the removal of the life support system and the withholding of medical treatment upon instructions of respondents Mary Ann and Patrick were the proximate cause of the death of Mario,” according to the DOJ resolution.
Henedina Laurel-Velasco said Mary Ann’s arrest last April brought back hope for the family that her brother would get justice.
“It’s still a very heavy burden on us because we just don’t know how this case is going to turn out to be,” she told ABS-CBN News.
“We just hope that our brother will still have justice in our lifetime and we will see closure to the whole case.”
Defense counsel Marlon Alexandre Cruz said there was no “iota of truth” to the allegation against Mary Ann and her son.
“She’s not supposed to be in jail in the first place and there is no evidence whatsoever, other than the mere say-so of the complainant, who was not even there when this incident happened,” he said.
On the surface, it was said to be a case of euthanasia, an issue that’s especially ticklish in predominantly Catholic Philippines. Catholic teaching considers direct euthanasia as “morally unacceptable.”
“Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted,” according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
In the 2010 resolution, the DOJ said: “Euthanasia in the Philippines as in the instant case is still murder and any physician who assists a person in taking his/her own life is liable for the crime of assisting a person to commit suicide under the Revised Penal Code.”
Based on the allegations, there was more to Mario’s death than mercy killing.
Mary Ann allegedly collected a huge sum in her husband’s insurance. She had also been allegedly divorced from Mario for about three months before she rushed to his death bed in Manila.
On Monday, the prosecution presented a medico-legal expert to help prove that based on hospital records, Mario should not have been removed from life support.
Also taking the witness stand was California-based lawyer Rodel Rodis, who had take Mary Ann’s deposition in a separate defamation case against the Laurel siblings in the U.S.
“In the deposition, she made very damaging admissions about her marriage to Joseph Timbol before she married Mario Laurel, and admissions about the sequence of events that showed that she already divorced Mario in the U.S., already married Timbol, when she then went to the Philippines when Mario was sick and started asserting herself as the spouse,” he said.
“She clearly had a motive because she was going to collect $1.75 million and that proved damaging.”
Mary Ann’s lawyer Cruz said the case clearly had something to do with what Mario had left behind.
“I can assure you that these are utterly trumped-up charges against her and against the son,” he said.
“It’s ultimately about the estate. Were it not for the dispute about the estate, I don’t think this case would have been filed.”
Whatever the truth is, it’s still a long way to go in this bitter family saga.