Another drug convict who testified vs De Lima dies in Bilibid
Another convicted drug lord who was among the government witnesses in the drug cases filed against Sen. Leila de Lima died in prison on Thursday night.
According to the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), Vicente Sy was brought to New Bilibid Prison (NBP) Hospital after having a cardiac arrest around 8 p.m., and died while waiting to be transferred to Ospital ng Muntinlupa.
Sy, 55, was the second high-profile convict who had testified against De Lima to die during the pandemic. In July last year, inmate Jaybee Sebastian succumbed to COVID-19, officials said.
Assistant Justice Secretary Gabriel Chaclag, the BuCor spokesperson, said Sy earlier complained of difficulty in breathing on the night of July 27. The convict was then brought to the Philippine Manila Naval Hospital and was later returned to his cell with prescribed medicines.
An autopsy was to be conducted on Sy as part of regular NBP procedure.
Sy was found guilty of drug trading and was sentenced to reclusion perpetua (40 years in prison) by the Pasay City Regional Trial Court in 1999.Counting his good conduct and time allowance credits, Sy was considered to have already served 25 years, one month and 22 days at the time of his death, according to BuCor records.
In October 2016, in a House hearing on the alleged proliferation of illegal drugs in Bilibid, Sy claimed in an affidavit read by his lawyer that he gave P500,000 for De Lima’s senatorial campaign kitty in 2012.
Sy also claimed that, in 2013, he gave P1 million to the senator through “George”—a supposed bagman of then National Bureau of Investigation Deputy Director General Rafael Ragos—so he could be allowed to have appliances in his Bilibid cell.
But in November 2020, following a court hearing on one of De Lima’s cases, her lawyer Boni Tacardon said Sy had retracted his previous statements and told the court under oath that he “never gave money to De Lima and neither did he personally know the senator.”
But Sy’s lawyer Mauricio Ulep denied that his client had withdrawn his testimony, saying what Sy told in court remained consistent with his revelations in the House inquiry. “He did not clear [De Lima] of any involvement in the drug trade but he testified on the existence of drug trafficking in New Bilibid Prison,” he said.
Sy was among the 10 high-profile inmates from the NBP who were transferred to a Philippine Marines facility in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, in 2019 on orders of President Duterte, supposedly for their safety after testifying against De Lima in the House hearings.
Like Sy, Sebastian told lawmakers that he helped fund De Lima’s 2016 senatorial campaign with drug money.
In 2016, Sy and Sebastian survived a gang riot at Building 14 in the NBP’s maximum-security compound.
In February this year, Judge Liezel Aquiatan of Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 205 acquitted De Lima in one of her three drug cases. The trial for the two other cases is ongoing.
Since De Lima’s detention in Camp Crame in 2017, her allies in the political opposition, civil society groups and several United States senators have repeatedly demanded her release, echoing her stand that she was a mere victim of political vendetta for being a vocal critic of Mr. Duterte’s brutal antidrug campaign. —With a report from Inquirer Research
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