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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Aguirre: Inmates offered P100M to recant testimony vs. De Lima

Published February 23, 2017 10:18am
Updated February 23, 2017 12:13pm

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II revealed on Thursday an alleged P100-million offer for high-profile inmates detained at Camp Aguinaldo to retract their testimonies on Senator Leila De Lima's drug links on or before February 25.

Aguirre said the inmates junked the offer on Wednesday, which was allegedly made by a former senator and an incumbent congressman from Laguna whom he did not identify.

He however said they are alleged members of the Liberal Party, to which De Lima belongs.

The justice chief said the offer was repeated on Thursday morning through inmate Clarence Dongail, a former policeman, only to be rejected again.

"Pinatawagan sa isang contact nila na hindi inmate. Binigay 'yung telepono and tinawagan and the cellphone ginawang nasa speaker phone. Narinig ng walo (inmates). Ni-reject ng walo," Aguirre told reporters on the sidelines of a European Union justice program event at the Manila Hotel. 

"Tapos ngayong umaga the offer was repeated but the offerer is now using De Lima," he added.

Aguirre described the attempt for the inmates to recant their testimonies as tampering of witnesses of "the highest order."

"We are taking the matter very seriously and we will go after those who are responsible,” he said. 

Asked about the significance of the February 25 deadline, Aguirre said it was in line with an alleged plan to oust President Rodrigo Duterte. 

"They wanted to use this to attract more people sa EDSA (Revolution) anniversary para magka-People Power daw and they are being offered that they will be released," he said. 

The military, however, said it has not monitored any plot to overthrow the Duterte administration and that any sector which may be planning to recruit soldiers for destabilization moves will not succeed.

Among those detained at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Custodial and Detention Center are convicts Herbert Colanggo, Engelberto Durano, Vicente Sy, Jojo Baligad, and Peter Co, who will be utilized by the Department of Justice (DOJ) as witnesses against De Lima in court.

De Lima is facing drug trafficking cases before three Muntinlupa City courts, which hinge on the testimony of several detainees at the national penitentiary that the lawmaker accepted money from drug syndicates and facilitated a drug-trading operation while she was justice secretary.

The embattled senator has dismissed the cases as politically motivated which she said was a result of being openly critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, which has claimed more than 7,000 lives since he took power in June last year.

She also said only the Office of the Ombudsman has jurisdiction over the cases since she is an elected official.

The DOJ and the Office of the Solicitor General, however, rejected De Lima's position, citing a 2004 Supreme Court ruling and a provision of RA 9165 that provides that regional trial courts have the jurisdiction to exclusively try and hear cases involving illegal drug activities. —KG, GMA News


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