MANILA – (UPDATED) Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said Tuesday that someone higher than then Secretary Leila de Lima benefited from the payoffs made by drug lords inside the National Bilibid Prison.
In a press conference following the hearing conducted by the House of Representative's Justice Committee, Aguirre said the official "higher than de Lima" is a member of the "yellow".
"Tama, member ng yellow," Aguirre said when asked to confirm that a higher official is involved in the payoffs.
(It is correct that the official is a member of the yellow.)
De Lima is a member of Liberal Party, which used the yellow color as a symbol during the Aquino administration.
However, Aguirre refused to confirm the exact identity of the said official.
"Mas mataas pa nga kay de Lima eh. Di alam mo kung kuwan," said Aguirre. "Kaya lang, ayoko magsabi kasi kami, nasa investigative stage pa lang. Pero doon nagpupunta. Doon nagpo-point 'yung ebidensya na hinihukay namin."
(Higher than de Lima, so you have a clue on who that is. However, we are still in the investigative stage. But the evidence points toward that official.)
Aguirre said the House investigation showed widespread corruption and a thriving drug trade inside Bilibid during de Lima's term as secretary of justice.
"We believe na talagang naipakita namin ang nangyayari na laganap na korupsyon at lalong lalo na sa ilegal na droga sa loob ng New Bilibid Prison natin," the justice chief said.
(We believe we have shown that there is widespread corruption, especially involving illegal drugs, inside the New Bilibid Prison.)
Moreover, Aguirre said that aside from the testimony of the witnesses, the number allegedly used by de Lima in communicating with convicted drug lord Herbert Colangco in 2014 was among the most incriminating evidence presented in the investigation.
Aguirre said they are coordinating with PLDT for the records of the said mobile number.
Meanwhile, Aguirre denied allegations made by de Lima that the Justice Department harassed and coerced the inmates to testify against de Lima. Aguirre claimed that the witnesses' demeanor confirmed their willingness to testify against the former justice chief.
"Meron ba doong mga testigo na may hitsurang hinarass ng Palace? At hindi totoo ang kanyang akusasyon na kaya ginaganap itong House investigation na ito ay dahil sa utos ng ating Pangulong Duterte. Hindi po, hindi po tototo 'yan," Aguirre said.
(Did any of the witnesses look harassed by the Palace? And there is no truth to her accusation that the president is behind the House investigation. That is not true.)
Aguirre vouched for the credibility of the witnesses he presented and questioned during the hearing, saying their convictions do not negate their credibility, unless these involve lying or stealing.
The DOJ secretary also explained why he was the one to conduct the direct examination of witnesses in the House probe instead of the committee members.
"Tinawagan ako ng Committee secretary, ang gawin ko raw ay ako ang mag-direct examination sa mga testigo at saka lamang i-interpellate ng mga members ng committee," he explained.
(I was informed by the committee secretary that I will conduct the direct examination. The Committee members will merely interpellate.) – with a report from Miguel Dumaual, ABS-CBN News