Philippines: Convicted drug inmates to testify on senator’s involvement in illegal drug trade

Duterte revealed earlier that de Lima was the top protector of convicted druglords who have continued their illegal operation while serving time at the NBP

Image Credit: AFP
Senator Leila De Lima asks questions to former death squad member Edgar Matobato during a senate hearing in Manila.
Gulf News

Manila: Several convicted druglords will testify against a senator for her alleged involvement in illegal drug trade, at the House of Representatives on September 20, a senior official said.

The Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) transferred more than 10 convicted druglords from the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) in suburban Muntinglupa to the military’s Camp Aguinaldo in suburban Quezon City before they testify against Leila de Lima, a former justice secretary who was elected Senator, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said on Saturday.

“They are credible witnesses,” Aguirre said, adding that convicted druglords Herbert Colangco and Noel Martinez, claimed in sworn statements that they sent P5 million (Dh416,666) each to De Lima’s residence ahead of the May 2016 elections.

De Lima’s former driver and alleged lover Ronnie Dayan was around when she accepted the money, witnesses were quoted as saying.

The alleged fund-raising began in 2013, “when convicted druglord Jaybee Sebastian called for the sale of large volumes of shabu (slang for methamphetamine) to raise funds for De Lima’s senatorial bid,” Aguirre said.

In her reaction, de Lima said, “That simply means they [at the justice department] got false witnesses. I’m not surprised anymore. That’s how evil and desperate they are.”

“Those are absolute lies,” de Lima said while denying her alleged link to illegal drug trade.

President Rodrigo Duterte revealed earlier that de Lima was the top protector of convicted druglords who have continued their illegal operation while serving time at the NBP.

Social media showed de Lima attending parties hosted by convicted druglords at the NBP, when she was justice secretary. She was shown singing, in an inmate’s costume, and making a high-five gesture with one of the inmates at that party.

In December 2013, de Lima ordered the transfer of 17 of 19 convicted druglords from NBP to the jail of the National Bureau of Investigation. They were found to have brought high-end appliances, state-of-the-art firearms, mobile phones and other communication gadgets, money, and sex dolls inside NBP. They were also allowed to install their respective CCTV’s, construct high-end residences and a music room at the NBP complex.

De Lima did not say at the time that the convicted druglords continued their illegal operations at the NBP. In July 2015, de Lima allowed the NBP to take custody of the high-profile drug convicts.

Last week, de Lima presented at the senate a self-proclaimed hitman who said he was with the Davao Death Squad that was ordered by Duterte to kill 1,000 when the latter was still mayor in the southern Philippines. De Lima is also facing an ethics complaint at the senate.

Local and foreign rights groups have criticised Duterte for the death of 3,000 people in his war on drugs since July, but the Philippine National Police said more than half of the killings were done by drug syndicates.