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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

DoJ probes extortion of parolees

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THE Department of Justice will look into alleged extortion against New Bilibid Prison inmates  applying for parole by unidentified former officials in the previous administration.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II vowed Thursday to investigate the claim of some inmates they were asked to pay hefty amounts in exchange for approval of their parole applications provided that evidence of such extortion would be submitted by the detainees.

“I will look into it. If there’s evidence then we should investigate,” Aguirre said in a text message.

Aguirre added proof of alleged payment might be necessary for the investigation to prosper.

“There should be documentary evidence of the alleged payments,” Aguirre said, referring to the reported “parole-for-sale” reports.

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Inmates’ lawyer Ferdinand Topacio said Wednesday his clients admitted to him they “were encouraged by some DoJ officials during the Aquino administration to apply for parole, with the assurance that, for the right amount of money, the applications would be approved before end of the Aquino administration and the term of secretary [Leila] De Lima and that, in fact, considerable amounts of money have already been paid by them to these people.” 

Topacio revealed the inmates admitted they gave to the former officials amounts ranging from P250,000 to P1 million in nature of bribes for supposed approval of their parole applications before the end of the Aquino administration on June 30, 2016.

“These were high-level officials close to then secretary de Lima, which may lead you to think that it had the imprimatur of De Lima,” Topacio said.

The lawyer said they hoped the issue would also be investigated “in due time.”

Topacio raised the alleged “parole for sale” when he denied the reported insinuation by   Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano that five of the witnesses in the House inquiry—including his clients Vicente Sy and Jojo Baligad—testified against De Lima in exchange for grant of pardon or executive clemency. 

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