JUSTICE Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II yesterday disclosed that witnesses against Sen. Leila de Lima were assured of immunity from suit for their testimonies in today’s first congressional hearing into the proliferation of drugs in state penitentiary.
“Whatever they will say, hindi sila maaaring idemanda (they can not be sued). It could not be used against them,” Aguirre said in a press briefing at the Department of Justice.
Aguirre said no less than 30 witnesses including high profile inmates and officials of the National Bureau of Investigation are set to spill the beans on De Lima, linking her to drugs operation by providing protection from crackdowns in exchange for hefty sums.
He explained that immunity from being prosecuted was necessary to ensure that the witnesses will tell everything they knew against De Lima and possibly against other officials in the past administration, without fear of getting prosecuted.
“I discussed it with the leaders of the House. Reasonable naman ito,” Aguirre said.
Among the witnesses who will testify include National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Deputy Director Rafael Ragos, his driver-escort Junior Ablen and high-profile inmates Herbert “Ampang” Colangco and Noel Martinez.
At least eight high-profile inmates, including convicted armed robber Colangco have been moved to the custody of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to ensure their safety.
Colangco allegedly continues to run his illegal drug operations from the maximum security prison.
Colangco is one of the names in the drug matrix presented by President Rodrigo Duterte as among the convicts allegedly engaging in drugs trade inside the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP). Also in the matrix is De Lima, her former driver Ronnie Dayan and another drug convict Peter Co.
Colangco also managed to shoot music videos inside prison and donated millions to the Bilibid hospital. He, along with 18 other high profile inmates were moved to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in late 2014 after authorities discovered that they were living a posh lifestyle inside Bilibid.
Aguirre said the proliferation and “escalation” of the proliferation of the illegal drug trade could not have flourished if “persons in charge and those in authority did their jobs.”