Vice-presidential aspirant Sen. Francis Pangilinan called on the United States government Thursday to revoke the visas and freeze the US-based property and financial interest of all Filipinos directly and indirectly involved in “fabricating” drug charges which led to the imprisonment of opposition Sen. Leila de Lima.
“All those who were involved— directly or indirectly, in this grand design to besmirch the reputation of Sen. De Lima and to demolish her politically for her crusade to eliminate social injustice in the Philippines—have utterly failed their mission. Now, they must be held accountable for what they have tried, but again failed, to do with Sen. De Lima.
Justice must be served now,” Pangilinan said.
Pangilinan, chairman of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats, also thanked Senators Edward Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations East-Asia and Pacific Subcommittee, Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).
These US senators on May 3 renewed calls for De Lima’s immediate release following the withdrawal of statements made by two key state witnesses.
The American lawmakers said “the recent recanting by key witnesses of allegations made against Senator Leila De Lima warrant her immediate release. Clearly, the bogus charges against her were, as we suspected all along, politically-motivated and based on false information.”
“That she has lost five years in jail due to these spurious charges is a travesty. She should be released immediately, and any remaining charges should be dropped without further delay,” the senators said in a statement released in Washington D.C. on May 3.
But former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, who succeeded de Lima as DOJ chief, denied in an online media briefing Wednesday that the allegations he and his subordinates coerced former Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos to implicate detained de Lima, now running for reelection under the team of Vice President Leni Robredo and Pangilinan.
Aguirre dismissed Ragos’ latest affidavit as “a worthless piece of paper,” adding “as a lawyer, allow me to state that it is a time-honored rule that retractions are unreliable unless backed up by incontrovertible evidence.”
But de Lima, detained at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame on illegal drugs charges, said her successor could not be believed in his denial, saying Aguirre had “a history of coercing witnesses, manufacturing evidence or lying about evidence.”
De Lima added: “Aguirre orchestrated the trial by publicity conducted against me both in the House of Representatives and the Senate.”
De Lima has been jailed at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame for more than five years over illegal drug charges.
De Lima — salutatorian of her class in San Beda College of Law in 1985, 14 years after Aguirre finished law in the same school along with President Rodrigo Duterte — also noted Aguirre had coerced DOJ
employees to admit falsely that they received money and held bank accounts for her benefit.
“In his effort to fabricate charges against me, he gave immunity under the Witness Protection Program to the Bilibid inmates he either coerced or bribed to testify against me during the House hearing in September 2016, even when criminal convicts are disqualified from becoming state witnesses,” insisted the re-electionist senator.
Because of Ragos’ recent affidavit pointing to Aguirre as the mastermind behind his false testimony against her, De Lima gave assurances she would file a supplement to the Complaint she filed against Aguirre with the Ombudsman in 2017.
This complaint, she said, includes a criminal complaint for offering false testimony, using falsified documents, and resorting to grave coercion.
She said Ragos’ affidavit would serve as strong evidence, “together with the other documents I already submitted to the Ombudsman, that Aguirre committed these criminal offenses against me when he ordered the preparation and filing of fabricated drug charges against me.”
Another opposition senatorial candidate, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, said the “admission of not one, but two witnesses, that their allegations against Senator Leila de Lima were fabricated only confirm what we knew all along: The criminal charges against Senator Leila are fake, baseless and motivated only by malice and political vendetta.”