MANILA — The late convict Jaybee Sebastian allegedly gave detained Senator Leila de Lima more than a million pesos in drug money inside the New Bilibid Prison, according to the latest witness the prosecution presented in the third drug case against the senator — a claim Sebastian never mentioned in any of the affidavits he executed.
Murder convict Joel Capones testified before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 256 that he remitted P1.4 million in drug money to Sebastian on March 5, 2014 inside Sebastian’s “kubol” or hut at the national penitentiary and later saw then-Justice Secretary De Lima.
“May isang pagkakataon kung saan tinawagan ako ni Jaybee at sinabi sa akin na pumunta ako sa kubol niya at dalhin ko ang pera dahil patutunayan niya na ang koleksyon ay para kay Sec. De Lima. Pumunta ako at maya-maya’y dumating nga si Sec. De Lima at nakita ko na iniabot sa kaniya ni Jaybee ang pera na dinala ko. Pagkatapos nito ay nag-usap na sila ni Jaybee ng pribado,” he said in his judicial affidavit, which he affirmed in court.
(There was one time Jaybee called me and told me to go to his hut and bring the money because he will prove that the collection was for Sec. De Lima. I went and later Sec. De Lima arrived and I saw Jaybee give her the money which I brought him. Then they talked in private.)
Lead prosecutor Sonny Ocampo claimed Capones’ testimony is “very clear,” adding that Capones allegedly saw De Lima visit Sebastian at the kubol several times.
Sebastian, who suddenly died in July last year allegedly due to COVID-19, executed several affidavits when he was still alive, including a July 2020 affidavit a few days before his death.
Ocampo earlier said Sebastian pleaded guilty to the conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading in this third case but did not live long enough to testify.
ABS-CBN News examined Sebastian’s affidavits executed in September 2016, October 2016, December 2016 and July 2020 but did not see any mention of a March 2014 transaction nor of a P1.4 million transaction involving De Lima.
Sebastian’s September 29, 2016 affidavit was only about the stabbing incident a day earlier which left him and 2 others injured while convicted crime lord Tony Co died.
In his October 9, 2016 affidavit, Sebastian mentioned transacting with De Lima through her aide Jonel Sanchez in December 2014 after the raid when he supposedly gave Sanchez P2 million.
The next transaction was supposedly directly with De Lima on January 8, 2015 for 2 million pesos and another 10 million pesos from March to May 2015 allegedly through Sanchez.
But in his December 27, 2016 counter-affidavit, Sebastian claimed he gave De Lima 10 million pesos in total, 2 million pesos of which he personally gave De Lima.
No other transactions were mentioned until his July 12, 2020 affidavit, executed 6 days before he died, where he mentioned for the first time that he facilitated the delivery of P5 million between convicted drug lord Peter Co and then-Justice Secretary De Lima through then-Bureau of Corrections Officer in Charge Rafael Ragos on 2 occasions in November and December 2012.
Facing the House hearing on the alleged Bilibid drug trade on October 10, 2016, Sebastian corrected then-Rep. Harry Roque that the amount he supposedly gave De Lima was only P2 million, not P5 million.
Asked why Sebastian failed to mention a March 5, 2014 transaction involving P1.4 million as Capones claims, Ocampo said it is possible the affidavits “pertain to other incident and not to the incident which is in question now.”
“Maybe because in all kinds of investigations, sometimes the person being investigated only answers or focus on the topic that is the subject of the inquiry,” he said.
De Lima’s lawyer, Boni Tacardon, said their cross-examination of Capones did not touch on Sebastian’s previous affidavits but they questioned the credibility of Capones’ statements.
“Medyo selective ang kanyang memory, may mga natatandaan syang mga petsa, mga sirkumstansya, mga personalidad pero marami rin syang hindi natatandaan, lalo na kung ang tinatanong namin yung mga bagay na may tendency na sumira sa kredibilidad nya bilang isang testigo, 'yun ang lumabas kanina,” he said.
(He has a selective memory. He would remember some dates and circumstances, personalities but many times he could not remember especially on matters that tend to destroy his credibility as a witness.)
Tacardon cited, as example, Capones’ claim he supposedly saw De Lima at Sebastian’s kubol without any Bureau of Corrections official.
“Isang napakalaking kasinungalingan yun dahil syempre kung ikaw ay secretary of justice at dadalaw ka sa New Bilibid Prison, dapat nandun yung mga opisyal ng Bureau of Corrections na sa ating sistema ay nasa ilalim ng kontrol at supervision ni Secretary De Lima,” he said.
(That’s a big lie because if you were justice secretary and you visit New Bilibid Prison, the officials of the Bureau of Corrections should be there because under our system, they were under the control and supervision of then-Secretary De Lima.)
Tacardon also questioned the clarity of Capones’ testimony.
“Nilagay ni Jaybee Sebastian sa isang lamesa habang kausap niya si Senator De Lima. Hindi rin nya sinabing 1.4 million, hindi nya nabanggit pero yung 1.4 million yun yung supposedly na ireremit nya pero yung perang iniabot hindi malinaw samin,” he said.
(Jaybee Sebastian placed the money on the table while talking to Senator De Lima. He [Capones] did not say 1.4 million but he supposedly remitted 1.4 million to Sebastian but it’s not clear to us if that was also the money Sebastian allegedly gave De Lima.)
Journalists were not allowed to attend the hearing but ABS-CBN News tried asking Capones about his testimony as he was being brought out of the court after the hearing. He refused to comment.
Tacardon said they moved to continue cross-examining Capones after it was inadvertently revealed during cross-examination that he executed a new affidavit which has not yet been presented in court.
The prosecution panel said they will most likely do a re-direct examination to address “misleading” questions during cross-examination.
Both counsel confirm that the defense had asked the court to charge Capones and the other “mayores” with illegal drug trading.
“Inamin mismo ni Joel Capones na sIya mismo at ang kanyang mayores ang nagbebenta ng droga sa Bilibid at sa labas. Ang sinasabi nga nya na medyo, na nagfi-flip flop sya sa aming palagay ay hindi nya kilala ang mga mayores nya na nagbebenta, hindi nya na raw kilala yung mga yun,” Tacardon said, adding Capones only mentioned 3 names.
“Kung totoo yung tinatawag na war on drugs ng gobyerno, eh di sana lahat ng taong involved sa droga sampahan ng kaso, bakit si Senator De Lima lang ang sinasabing involved sa bentahan ng droga sa Bilibid?” he asked.
De Lima has also written Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra asking why Capones has not been charged yet despite his admission under oath that he committed illegal drug trading inside Bilibid in 2014.
In a statement, Guevarra said he has already read De Lima's letter.
"[I will] take the matter that she brought to my attention under advisement," he said.
The senator also wrote the Parole and Probation Administration to oppose Capones’ application for parole or executive clemency but according to Ocampo, they are not aware of any application.
De Lima, a staunch administration critic, has been detained for 4 years and has called cases against her political persecution.
A Muntinlupa court junked the first drug case against even as it denied her bid to post bail and dismiss a second drug case. She has appealed the adverse ruling.