Guevarra defends state use of convicts vs De Lima
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has dismissed Sen. Leila de Lima’s accusation that inmates at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) had been admitted as state witnesses in her court trial.
“The charge against De Lima was about trading in illegal drugs inside the NBP. Would it be surprising that inmates be called upon to testify?” Guevarra said in response to the senator’s complaint filed in the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court.
Drugs in prison
In her Oct. 29 complaint, De Lima accused Guevarra and his predecessor, Vitaliano Aguirre II, of graft and negligence for “illegally admitting as state witnesses” 13 convicts who implicated her in their illegal drug activities in prison.
Guevarra, however, claimed the inmates were ordinary witnesses and not state witnesses.
“As far as I know, no convicted person has been used as a state witness under Rule 119 against Senator De Lima,” he said, referring to the rule on criminal procedures about turning some accused as state witnesses to pin down other accused.
Guevarra neither confirmed nor denied De Lima’s accusation that the 13 convicts had been placed on the Department of Justice’s Witness Protection Program (WPP), saying the WPP law required “absolute confidentiality.”
De Lima has been detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City, since Feb. 23, 2017, on charges that she presided over the illegal drug trade inside NBP while she was justice secretary from 2010 to 2015.
De Lima has denied the charges and cried political persecution.
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