HOUSE Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez yesterday signed a document granting six witnesses in the House probe into drug operations inside the New Bilibid Prisons immunity from any suit.
Out of six witnesses, four were considered high-profile inmates of the NBP while one is a former official of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and his driver.
Upon the request of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, the House Committee on Justice approved the motion to grant the witnesses immunity from any suit.
The approved motion was sent to the Speaker for prompt action.
It was Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas who relayed to the committee the decision of Alvarez.
“Provided that they will say the truth and nothing but the truth, immunity from any suit was granted to the witnesses,” Fariñas said.
Yesterday, Aguirre told the panel that at least six persons expressed their willingness to testify on the drug trade especially during the time of Sen. Leila de Lima as justice secretary.
They are Rafael Ragos, who was designated by no less than De Lima as BuCor officer-in-charge and NBI Deputy Director for Intelligence, his driver Junior Ablen, and inmates Herbert Colangco, Noel Martinez and Jaime Pacho, likewise Rodolfo Magleo who was a former police major assigned at NBP.
In his opening statement, Aguirre said that the witnesses asked only for immunity.
“They are not asking for anything, any favor, and we did not promise them anything. But their lawyers approached this representation that if possible their clients be offered immunity while they are testifying before this hearing,” Aguirre said.
“I agree that it is very reasonable. They wanted to cooperate, to tell what they know… I believe that they should be given immunity,” Aguirre added.
At the start of the hearing, Aguirre provided the panel an overview of what the six witnesses would be saying during the day’s hearing.
According to Aguirre Ragos, as well as Ablen will both testify on how they delivered a total of P10 million to the house of De Lima in Parañaque in two instances in 2012.
Colangco on the other hand will testify that he was ordered by another inmate, convicted drug lord JB Sebastian, to sell drugs to raise money for the senatorial campaign plans of De Lima.
Aguirre also said Colangco will also testify how he was paying P3 million payola per month to De Lima.
Meanwhile, another inmate, NBP gang leader Noel Martinez, will testify that Sebastian, sometime in February 2013, told him that De Lima needed funds for the 2016 senatorial elections.
Another inmate, Jaime Pacho, will corroborate Martinez’ statement that he was also asked by Sebastian to sell illegal drugs for De Lima’s senatorial bid.
Meanwhile, Magleo testified that Sebastian told him that some inmates will be removed from the maximum security compound so that the latter can monopolize the drug trade in the compound.
Before the testimony of the witnesses, the DoJ showed a foreign documentary presenting the life of Sebastian and other inmates inside the NBP before the Special Action Force took over security at the prison upon orders of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The 40-minute documentary was aired on Discovery Channel in 2013 and is part of the TV series “Inside the Gangster’s Code,” hosted by Louis Ferrante, a convicted mobster who later became a bestselling true crime, business, and science writer.
Among the inmates interviewed in the episode was Sebastian, a leader of Sigue-Sigue Gang.
The documentary showed how luxurious a gang leader’s life can be inside the national penitentiary.