Death of witness inside Bilibid will not affect De Lima case: lawyer

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 21 2020 11:06 AM | Updated as of Jul 21 2020 04:32 PM

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MANILA (UPDATE) - The death of high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian, one of the accusers of detained Sen. Leila de Lima, will not affect her drug-related cases, the senator's counsel said Tuesday.

The Department of Justice earlier confirmed Sebastian's death as it ordered an investigation into the sudden demise of high-profile inmates at the national penitentiary.

Sebastian was a witness in 2 criminal cases filed against De Lima and an accused in a third complaint, according to one of her lawyers Boni Tacardon.

Sebastian had claimed he collected money from drug lords in the New Bilibid Prison to fund De Lima's supposed senatorial run in 2013, Tacardon said.

"We believe that Mr. Sebastian will not in anyway bolster the prosecution's evidence against Sen. De Lima. We believe that all the evidence against the good senator are weak from the very beginning simply because they are mere fabricated stories devoid of any factual basis," he told ANC.

"Whether the fabricator is dead or alive doesn’t change the fact that the stories are all lies and that the case against me are all fake," Tacardon read from the senator's official statement.

He added that De Lima's legal team has been "exposing the fabricated nature of the testimonies" presented by prosecutors for the past 3 years.

"Any follower of the hearings can easily observe how incredible their stories are and how they actually contradicted each other. There was even 1 witness who intimated to the senator herself in open court that he will be killed if he did not testify," he said.

Tacardon identified the witness as Engelberto Durano, who testified on Oct. 25, 2019 in the third criminal case against the senator.

"In the course of his testimony, there was a short lull and after that, Senator De Lima was surprised seeing Durano, with his right hand, palm down, making a slashing motion across his neck. Sen. De Lima was taken aback and felt threatened," he told ABS-CBN News.

"When asked if he indeed made that gesture, Durano denied that he was threatening Sen. De Lima. What he allegedly meant was that he would be killed if he will not testify. The panel
of prosecutors tried to downplay the incident by assuring Sen. De Lima that she was not being threatened."

The senator last month filed a petition for bail in one of her cases due to "hearsay" evidence.

De Lima has rejected allegations against her, claiming she had been locked up to stop her from criticizing the administration's war on drugs that has seen thousands of suspected criminals killed.