Sec. Aguirre says Sen. De Lima pocketed billions from the alleged illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison.
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Thursday claimed solons from the opposition party bribed high-profile inmates to recant their statements against Senator Leila De Lima in a bid to remove President Rodrigo Duterte from office.
"High-profile Bilibid inmates at AFP Custodial Center were offered P100 million to recant in favor of Sen. De Lima on or before February 25," he said in a press statement.
Aguirre added the inmates were also offered by an unnamed former senator and an incumbent congressman their freedom to withdraw their testimonies.
"They're being offered that they'll be released," he told reporters in an ambush interview after the statement was issued.
Aguirre added the move to get the convicts to recant the statements could be connected to the 31st EDSA People Power Revolution anniversary on Saturday.
"Gagamitin daw nila ang kanilang retraction to attract more people sa Edsa revolution para tuluy-tuloy na nila magawa at matapon ang Duterte administration," Aguirre said.
[Translation: They were going to use their retraction to attract more people to the Edsa revolution (anniversary) and eevntually overthrow the Duterte administration.]
Aguirre: Offer made by solon from opposition Liberal Party
When asked by the media if the offer came from De Lima's political party Liberal Party, Aguirre replied, "Ka-partido, yes."
Aguirre added he will name the former senator and Laguna congressman in a Senate hearing.
Laguna 4th District Rep. Benjamin Agarao — who said he is the only remaining congressman representing Liberal Party in the province — denied he bribed the inmates.
"Hindi ko alam yun. Wala nga akong kilala dun sa mga high-profile inmates na yun," Agarao told CNN Philippines in a phone interview.
Agarao said if he has P100 million, he'd rather use it to help his constituents.
"Wala naman akong isang daang milyon... Kung may isang daang milyon ako, ipamimigay ko na lang sa distrito ko kasi mahirap ang aking district," he said.
Aguirre said he received information that the offer was first made on Wednesday, and was offered again on Thursday morning, as told to him by inmate Clarence Dongail.
Aguirre said the eight inmates refused to take the bribe.
"Pinatawagan dun sa isang contact nila. Hindi inmate, so binigay yung telepono and then tinawagan. The cellphone, ginawang speaker phone, naririnig nung walong [inmates]. The eight rejected the offer," Aguirre said.
NBI investigating bribe offer
Aguirre said the Department of Justice will take legal action.
"We are going to make a complaint for this because that is illegal. That is immoral. That is a crime," he said.
Witnesses in the House probe on the proliferation of illegal drugs are detained in the AFP Custodial and Detention Center after they testified that then-Justice Secretary De Lima was involved in the drug trade.
De Lima is facing three drug cases, filed by the Department of Justice, before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court.
CNN Philippines correspondents Anjo Alimario, Joyce Ilas, senior digital producer Lara Tan contributed to this report.