JUSTICE Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said Monday that criminal charges would be filed this week against his predecessor and now Senator Leila de Lima, whom he said started collecting money from drug lords in the national penitentiary as early as 2011, when she planned to run for the Senate in the 2013 mid-term elections.
Aguirre said information he received indicated that the influential inmate Jaybee Sebastian required the “bosyo” or the head of various gangs at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City to sell drugs to raise money for De Lima.
“Even before 2013, Jaybee Sebastian had stepped up the distribution of the drugs. He paid the gang leaders. In 2011, the drug money started flowing toward the direction of Secretary De Lima because even before the 2013 elections, she already had plans of running [or the Senate]. She just postponed her senatorial bid,” Aguirre said at a press conference.
Aguirre said Sebastian ordered the gang leaders to sell as much as 50 kilos per month of illegal drugs, mostly methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, through their contacts outside the NBP.
“Jaybee was sure that Secretary De Lima will run in 2016, so what he did was to give each gang a quota of selling 20 kilos per month, 30 kilos per month, up to 50 kilos per month. The bosyo were required to meet the sales quota,” Aguirre said.
Aguirre declined to say how much money De Lima received, but said the drug trade “runs into the billions.”
Aguirre said an inmate who is the right-hand man of Sebastian in the Sigue Sigue Sputnik Gang said a certain Jad de Vera collected the drug money for De Lima.
Aguirre said the inmate said he was once summoned by Sebastian to his hut at the NBP and was surprised to see De Lima inside.
Aguirre said the inmates who were going to testify in today’s inquiry at the House told them that they were taken out of the NBP and transferred to the National Bureau of Investigation headquarters in 2014 so that Sebastian would be able to go on with the illegal drug trade freely inside the NBP.
“I just talked to the five or six of the inmates, who said they were thrown to the NBP so that Sebastian could run the drugs on his own inside the NBP,” Aguirre said in Filipino.
The inmates said that Sebastian would threaten the other inmates that if they did not follow his orders, he would use his influence and connection with De Lima to have them transfered to other prison farms and colonies in the provinces managed by the Bureau of Correction.
In December 2014, De Lima personally led the raid at the maximum-security compound of the NBP where authorities recovered luxury items, cash and other contraband items inside the cell of high-profile inmates.
This prompted De Lima to order the transfer of 19 inmates to the NBI as part of the crackdown on illegal activities inside the NBP, particularly the drugs trade.
Aguirre said when he talked to Sebastian, the latter expressed willingness to cooperate, but eventually clammed up.
Aguirre earlier said inmate and convicted robber Herbert Colangco delivered P3 million monthly to De Lima.
He is also one of the witnesses that will be presented by the Justice Department against De Lima.
Former NBI deputy director Rafael Ragos, who once served as officer-in-charge of the Bureau of Corrections, will also shed light on the P5 million he allegedly gave De Lima.
“The P5 million was brought to her home in Parañaque. De Lima herself accepted it, even though Ronnie Dayan [De Lima’s former driver and alleged lover] was there,” Aguirre said.
Aguirre said the Justice Department was preparing a criminal complaint against De Lima based on the testimony of witnesses linking her to illegal drugs in the NBP.
“It so happened that we have this hearing in Congress. Besides, it’s not easy to prepare the case, especially against a high ranking public official like Senator De Lima,” Aguirre said.
“I assure you that we will file the case. Based on my assessment of the affidavits, there is strong case. We will file the case against public officials responsible for the proliferation of drugs at NBP. We will file it as soon as possible,” Aguirre vowed.
Aguirre admitted that the cases that will be filed against De Lima are based on affidavits executed by some members of the notorious “Bilibid 19,” the high profile inmates found to have been enjoying a lavish treatment inside the national penitentiary.
“A complaint may now be filed and this will undergo preliminary investigation. The nature of the charges is on violation of anti-drugs law and possibly of anti-graft law also,” he said.
Those who receive proceeds from drug money are criminally liable under Republic Act 9165 or Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act. Government officials who receive bribe money in exchange for protection of illegal activities are also culpable under Republic Act 3019, otherwise known as “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.”
While the witnesses are convicted felons, their testimony can be trusted, Aguirre said.
“I have been a litigator for 44 years... Just give me 10 minutes and I can tell you if a person is telling the truth or not,” Aguirre said.
Aguirre also revealed that the DOJ will present 30 witnesses and resource persons at the House of Representatives during the congressional inquiry Tuesday into the proliferation of illegal drugs trade inside the NBP when De Lima exercised administrative supervision as Justice secretary.
Allies of President Rodrigo Duterte in the House said Tuesday’s congressional probe on the proliferation of illegal drugs at the NBP will be fair.
At a news conference, Deputy Speakers and Reps. Ferdinand Hernandez of South Cotabato and Frederick Abueg of Palawan disputed claims that the House probe would be directed at De Lima.
“This is purely concentrated on the National Bilibid Prison. This is in aid of legislation. This is in no way to persecute anybody,” Hernandez said.
The House committee on justice, chaired by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, will conduct the probe through Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s House Resolution 105 seeking a congressional probe into the matter.
Abueg said the end goal of the House probe would be to strengthen the existing drugs laws by looking into circumstances that had caused the proliferation of illegal drugs at the national prison under De Lima’s watch, and not to persecute De Lima.
“We are duly elected representatives of our respective districts. We are public officials, and we are doing this in aid of legislation. We are not just a private body seeking persecution of anyone,” Abueg added.
Hernandez also said the House probe would not be a scripted hearing even though the House is dominated by a “supermajority” headed by Alvarez, secretary general of President Rodrigo Duterte’s PDP-Laban. With Maricel V. Cruz
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.