High-profile NBP inmates won’t retract testimonies vs De Lima

MANILA-- Lawyer Ferdinand Topacio on Wednesday said that high-profile inmates who testified against detained Senator Leila De Lima regarding the illegal drugs trade inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) will not recant their testimonies.

Topacio, lawyer of convicted drug lords led by Herbert Colangco and Noel Martinez, issued the clarification after the lawyer of Vicente Sy, Jojo Baligad, and Peter Co was quoted saying in a press conference in Manila on Wednesday that there is a possibility that the witnesses wil recant their statements.

The issue came after Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II ordered the Bureau of Corrections to return to their original cells at the maximum security compound in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) the high-profile inmates who testified against De Lima on narcotics trade.

Topacio said he was able to talk to his clients last Tuesday who were currently detained at the facility controlled by the Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP) in Camp Aguinaldo.

He noted that his clients have no plans to retract their statements against the detained senator.

"I was in Camp Aguinaldo around 4 p.m. yesterday (Tuesday). Naka-log book yan. I personally talked to them, so I know that for a fact. Ang stand nila dahil dito sa pagtatransfer,ang sabi sakin, while they do not want to be transferred, wala naman sinasabing magrerecant sila, he told reporters in a phone interview.

The lawyer believes that information about the witnesses planning to recant their statements against De Lima could be part of a plot to weaken the cases against the senator.

"This guy is sowing dissension. I don't know who's pulling the strings. But someone is really trying to weaken the case against Sen. De Lima, and I cannot blame them because this involves life imprisonment sentences, and this involves the personal liberty of Sen. De Lima," he explained.

Pero on the part of my clients, I have not received any such indication that they are recanting their testimonies, he added.

Atty. Francis Acejas III, the lawyer who announce that some high profile inmates plans to recant their testimonies because of Secretary Aguirre issued Department Order No. 496 dated July 24, 2017 directing BuCor under officer-in-charge Rey Ragaas to immediately return the convicted drug lords from the medium security compound to their original detention facility.

"That (recantation) could be a possibility and that would be rather disastrous in a manner of speaking because if theses witnesses will not cooperate then the privileges under the Witness Protection Program will be taken away from them. but what about the government's effort to pin down some personalities?" Acejas said during the press conference on Wednesday morning.

But when contacted for clarification later in the day, Acejas said there is no plan to recant but only an appeal from his clients for Aguirre not to transfer them back to the maximum security compound.

No. There is no such thing as recantation. Because right now we do not want to jeopardize Our appeal is for the DOJ Secretary to consider yung memorandum niya, Acejas said adding cited threats against his clients inside the maximum security compound - just like the threats against other witnesses transferred to Camp Aguinaldo. .

In the meantime, while the case going on against former DoJ secretary kailangan masecure naman yung sa kanila for their own safety and protection, he added.

Aguirre on Monday ordered the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to return to their original cells at the maximum security compound in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) the high-profile inmates who testified against detained Senator Leila De Lima on narcotics trade.

"All inmates who were previously transfer from Building 14 to maximum security or medium security and from maximum security to medium security, NBP, BuCor since December 1, 2016. All subsequent transfer of the high-profile inmates and/or inmates convicted of offenses related to illegal drugs within the NBP shall be signed and approved by the Secretary of Justice," the order read.

In the same order, Aguirre also directed Ragaas to look into the transfer and submit an inventory of all inmates involved and the reasons for their transfer.

Aguirre gave the BuCor official ten days to submit a report to his office.

Among those transferred to the medium security compound - a less secured facility in NBP as compared to the maximum security compound - were inmates Sy, Baligad, and Peter Co, three of the key witnesses in the drug trafficking cases against De Lima.

Prior to their testimonies against De Lima in the House of Representatives inquiry on the illegal drugs trade inside NBP, eight convicted drug lords led by Herbert Colangco and Noel Martinez were transferred to the facility controlled by the Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP) in Camp Aguinaldo in September last year.

Some high-profile inmates who testified against De Lima - including drug lord Jaybee Sebastian - remained in the NBP.

Source: Philippines News Agency