Convicts not tortured to testify vs De Lima, says lawyer
The lawyer of high-profile inmates who testified against Sen. Leila de Lima said his clients were not forced or tortured to give their testimonies in the ongoing congressional inquiry on drug proliferation at the New Bilibid Prisons.
In a statement, lawyer Ferdinand Topacio denied De Lima’s claim that his clients were “blackmailed, threatened, intimidated and/or tortured” to pin down the lady senator in alleged drug trade in the national penitentiary.
“Sen. Leila De Lima has again shown her propensity for making untruthful and irresponsible statements devoid of factual bases. In short, she has been infected with the deadly ‘Matobato Syndrome,’” Topacio said, alluding to the Senate witness and confessed hitman Edgar Matobato, who claimed he was a member of the notorious Davao Death Squad and linked President Rodrigo Duterte to thousands of vigilante killings in his hometown of Davao City.
“My clients have neither been threatened, cajoled, tortured nor intimidated, nor have they been subjected to torture, either physical or psychological. Also, her ridiculous claims that my clients have been plucked from the National Bilibid Prison to undergo interrogation at the ISAFP Facility in Camp Aguinaldo is the stuff of which fantasies are made,” he added.
Topacio is the counsel for inmates Noel Martinez, German Agojo, Joel Capones, and Jerry Pepino, and co-counsel for Herbert Colanggo.
The convicts, who were brought in and being examined by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre despite not being a House member, alleged that De Lima allowed the flow of drugs and other contraband in the major prison facility and supposedly received payoffs to fund her senatorial campaign.
In her privilege speech on Tuesday, De Lima said she received reliable reports that the inmates were tortured into testifying against her and the evidence they presented were “false and fabricated.”
De Lima said the witnesses against her were “convicted criminals, officials of the Department of Justice or National Bureau of Investigation and others who have an axe to grind against me, or those who have skeletons in their closet and now are being pressured to do Malacañang’s bidding at the risk of being charged themselves.”
Topacio dared De Lima to personally visit his clients to check if they were being tortured and to “confront them and look them in the eye and ask them if what they are saying is true.”
“For the information of the good (looking) Senator, my clients have been transferred to a secure detention facility as they fear for their lives after coming forward to testify against her, knowing of the criminal capabilities of her henchman, JayBee Sebastian, who shares Building 14 with them. Their testimonies have also been taken under the supervision of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines with Col. Besana present, the Public Attorney’s office with its Chief, Persy Rueda-Acosta in attendance, the National Bureau of Investigation and their private lawyers all physically present, and all proceedings duly videotaped,” he added.
De Lima, who has become Duterte’s staunchest critic, initiated the Senate probe on the spate of suspected extrajudicial killings amid the administration’s bloody war on drugs. The senator is being accused by the President of coddling drug lords in the national penitentiary. CDG
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