Revisiting the House probe on the Bilibid drug trade

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(File photo) Senator Leila De Lima

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Former Justice Secretary and now Senator Leila de Lima abetted the illegal drug trade run by convicted drug lords from inside the national penitentiary.

This was the testimony of several high-profile New Bilibid Prison inmates who faced the House Committee on Justice. The house committee held a series of investigations in September 2016 investigating the proliferation of drug syndicates inside Bilibid during De Lima's term as Justice Secretary from 2010 to 2015.

During the hearing, alleged Bilibid drug lord Jaybee Sebastian admitted that he gave de Lima – whom he called a "protector" – a total of P10 million worth of drug money from 2014 to 2015.

Watch: Jaybee Sebastian pins down De Lima

Sebastian said the money was to be used for de Lima's campaign in the May 2016 elections for a Senate seat.

"Sinabi ko kay de Lima na 'Ma'am, may ibigay ako sayong pera, paano to? Kay Junel ko ba iabot ito?' Sumagot naman si Secretary de Lima, 'Hindi ko kasama si Junel ngayon, iwan mo na lang dyan. '"

[Translation: I told De Lima, 'Ma'am, I have money to give you, what do I do? Do i give it to Junel?' She answered, 'Junel isn't with me today, just leave it there.'"

Another witness, convicted drug lord Herbert Colanggo claimed he gave De Lima P3 million monthly to allow the entry of contraband inside the penitentiary.

Read: 'De Lima allowed entry of drugs, contraband in Bilibid for money'

Colanggo, a music aficionado, said he also gave De Lima ₱1 million every time he held a concert inside Bilibid.

"Ang tawag sa amin ay PR Payola po para lahat ng gusto naming kontrabando ay papasok: golf cart, motor de kuryente," Colanggo told the hearing.

[Translation: We'd call it PR Payola and it would be given so that we could have the contraband we wanted: golf cart, electric scooters.]

Other inmates also claimed personally giving de Lima millions worth of drug money.

Former PO3 Engelberto Durano, another witness against de Lima, said, "Inabot ko na kay Secretary de Lima ang kahon na may lamang ₱1.5 million at sinabi 'Ma'am, ito na po.' Kinuha ito ni Secretary at inabot sa lalaking sumalubong sa akin."

[Translation: I handed over the box with ₱1.5 millon to Secretary de Lima and said, 'Ma'am, here it is.' She took it from me and gave it to the man who greeted me.]


Bilibid inmate and witness Jojo Baligad said, "Alam ko na direktang para kay Secretary de Lima mismo ang isang milyon at limandaang libong piso at ito'y tahasang inamin ni Herbert Colangco sa akin."

[Translation: I knew that the ₱1.5 million was for Secretary de Lima and this was admitted to me by Herbert Colnaggo.]

De Lima's former-driver-turned-lover Ronnie Dayan said he received money from alleged Eastern Visayas drug Lord Kerwin Espinosa for de Lima.

Read: Dayan: I got money from Kerwin for De Lima

Dayan, however, said he did not know that Espinosa was an alleged drug lord or how much money Espinosa was giving de Lima.

He said, "Inaabot ko ang mga ito kay Ma'am pagdating sa bahay. Sa mismong kwarto, automatic na po iyan."

[Translation: I would hand it over to Ma'am (de Lima) when I got to the house. In her room, that was automatic.]

In the end, some congressmen were convinced that De Lima may have been involved in the illegal drug trade.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said, "Here is a woman, pretending to be clean. Pretending to be a crime-buster, a graft-buster, a self-proclaimed righteous individual. Kelangan natin ipakita sa taong-bayan kung anong klaseng tao ito [We need to show the people what kind of person she is]."

Read: House leaders mull contempt, ethics cases vs. De Lima

But others question the motives and the inconsistencies in the statements of convicts-turned-witnesses.

Oriental Mindoro Representative Doy Leachon said, "Para sa akin kasi gusto mo lang sabihin iyong pwede mong sabihin pero iyong pwede mong itago, itatago mo."

[Translation: For me, you are free to say what you want to say, but you can hide what you can hide.]

For de Lima, the statements of convicts were nothing but lies meant to destroy her.