More witnesses link De Lima to illegal drug payoffs

Kimberly Jane Tan, Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 21 2016 11:58 AM | Updated as of Sep 22 2016 07:25 AM

MANILA (2nd UPDATE) – More gang leaders in the New Bilbid Prison (NBP) testified before a congressional inquiry on Wednesday and backed earlier testimonies that Senator Leila de Lima received millions in kickbacks from the illegal drug trade when she was justice secretary.

Convicted kidnapper Noel Martinez said fellow inmate and gang leader Jaybee Sebastian asked him as early as February 2013 to help raise funds for De Lima's senatorial campaign by selling illegal drugs from prison.

"Ang magiging kapalit nito, ayon kay Jaybee, ay ang proteksyon sa amin at ang special treatment na matatanggap [In return, Jaybee said we will get protection and special treatment]," Martinez told the House of Representatives Justice Committee.

Martinez, who headed the Genuine Ilocano Group in the national penitentiary, said he was forced to comply because he owed Sebastian and was also afraid of him.

"Ang utang na loob na yoon ay ang magpapagulo sa aking buhay kinalaunan [That debt would eventually complicate my life]," he said.

Martinez claimed that when De Lima herself was not visiting, she would send her driver Junel Sanchez and a certain "Makoy" to collect the drug money.

Aside from the senator, he said a certain "Colonel Elly" had also called him into the Bureau of Corrections OIC office to ask for a P500,000 payout.

After that, Martinez said he was included in the 19 detainees who were brought to the National Bureau of Investigation. "Kapansin-pansin na hindi isinama si Jaybee sa grupong ito [It's glaring that Jaybee was not among this group]," he said.

BATMAN GANG

Convicted kidnapper Jaime Patcho also testified on Wednesday that Sebastian tapped him to sell drugs for De Lima's senatorial campaign.

Patcho, who heads the "Batman" gang in the New Bilibid Prisons, said he first received a message from Sebastian on January 2015 wherein he was asked if he was interested to take part in "hanap buhay" [livelihood].

Patcho claimed he sold a total of five kilos of illegal drugs worth P4.35-million for Sebastian between four to five months.

He said De Lima would go to Sebastian's area when visiting the NBP, giving rise to suspicions that the convict was receiving instructions from the justice secretary.

BATANG CITY JAIL

Another gang leader claimed that he also gave a total of P1.5 million to de Lima sometime in the middle of 2014.

Joselito Baligad of the Batang City Jail group said another high profile inmate, convicted robber Herbert Colanggo, collected the money upon the supposed instruction of de Lima.

“Tatlong beses akong hiningian ni Herbert Colanggo ng tig-P500,000 sa iba’t ibang pagkakataon para raw kay [Colanggo demanded P500,000 from me on three separate occasions, supposedly for] DOJ Secretary de Lima, na akin naming ibinigay [which I gave],” Baligad said.

“Ang nasabing halaga ay galing sa napagbentahan ng droga at sa sugal na EZ-2 [The said funds came from profits from drugs and the gambling game EZ-2].”

Aside from de Lima, Baligad said he also gave “payolas” to former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) directors Rafael Ragos and Franklin Bucayu.

He claimed the Batang City Jail started giving P100,000 every week to Ragos in January 2013, after the official allowed inmates to smuggle contraband items into the prison and engage in illegal activities like drug abuse, illegal gambling and drinking sprees.

Baligad said Ragos’ successor, Bucayu, also condoned the irregularities in exchange for bribes coursed through a certain “Colonel Ely,” his alleged bagman.

Restrictions inside the country’s largest state facility were only imposed again when BuCor Director Ranier Cruz took over in 2014, Baligad said.

Earlier, Ragos, former NBI agent Jovencio Ablen, drug dealer Herbert Colanggo, retired police officer and convicted kidnapper Rodolfo Magleo also testified to giving payouts to De Lima.

They were all granted immunity and inclusion in the Witness Protection Program.