MANILA — Detained Sen. Leila De Lima denounced Friday the transfer of several high-profile convicts serving as witnesses in the drug cases against her, saying the move was meant to pressure them to stick to their “perjured testimonies.”
De Lima rejected suggestions that drug lord Peter Co and 6 other convicts, among 10 high-profile inmates moved from the New Bilibid Prison to the Marine barracks in Taguig City in June, were transferred for security reasons.
“Are they implying that there’s a security threat coming from me? Baloney! Hilarious!” she said in a statement.
De Lima has been detained for more than 2 years over what she considers trumped-up charges for criticizing human rights violations under President Rodrigo Duterte.
She is on trial for three separate drug cases pending at two Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court salas.
The transfer of convicts took place in June but became public only earlier this week, as the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) came under fire for the questionable early release of prisoners serving time for heinous crimes.
De Lima suspected that the move would allow her “oppressors” to “further coach and coerce or pressure“ the witnesses.
“Tila walang katapusan ang kasamaan ng rehimen na ito!” she said.
In a document dated June 12, 2019 obtained by ABS-CBN News, the following “high risk and high profile” prisoners were transferred from Building 14 of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) to the Philippine Marine Barracks Rudiardo Brown in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City:
• Hans Anton Tan
• Peter Co alias Wu Tuan Yuan
• Jojo Baligad
• Vicente Sy
• Froilan Trestiza
• Nonilo Arile
• Chua Che Ket
• Rico Caja
• Joel Capones
• Allan Senogat
Of the 10 convicts, 7 had testified against De Lima on her alleged involvement in the drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison during her time as justice chief.
In September last year, De Lima moved to have them disqualified as witnesses on account of their conviction for crimes involving moral turpitude. They are:
• Arile, convicted for murder and kidnapping
• Baligad, convicted for murder
• Sy, convicted for illegal sale and delivery of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu)
• Tan, convicted for robbery and direct assault with murder
• Trestiza, convicted for kidnapping
• Co, convicted for illegal sale and delivery of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu)
• Capones, convicted for homicide
A Muntinlupa court, however, denied the motion and De Lima appealed to the Court of Appeals.
Former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said moving the convicts to the military facility suggested that they were being “treated differently over the others.”
“It's a clear concession or reward given to them in exchange for their testimonies against her,” he told ABS-CBN News.
Former prisons chief Dionisio Santiago said the BuCor should come clean on why this group of convicts were chosen for transfer, and whether it was covered by a court order.
“This is a sensitive matter because you moved high-profile inmates, drug lords,” he told ABS-CBN News.
“Ano hawak ng gobyerno d'yan? Ano na-benefit mo sa mga 'yan?”
(What does government hold against them? What's your benefit from them?)
- With a report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News