GANG leaders at the New Bilibid Prison claimed to have raised campaign funds for Sen. Leila de Lima on the second day of a House inquiry into the illegal drug trade at the national penitentiary, but none were able to confirm that money went straight to the lawmaker.
Instead, convicts Noel Martinez, Jaime Patcho and Jojo Baligad said they transacted directly with the feared “Commando” gang chieftain Jaybee Sebastian, who they claimed collected the money for de Lima when she was Justice secretary in the previous Aquino administration.
The three, accompanied by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd, appeared before the House justice committee on Wednesday, following the testimonies on Tuesday of inmates Herbert Colanggo and Rodolfo Magleo as well as de Lima’s former subordinates at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Rafael Ragos and Jovencio Ablen Jr.
On Tuesday, Colanggco and Magleo claimed they paid de Lima to let them run “sin city-type” businesses at the Bilibid in Muntinlupa City, but through one of her security aides, Presidential Security Group member Joenel Sanchez.
Ragos and Ablen claimed to have delivered money to de Lima in her Parañaque City home in 2012 in separate sworn affidavits, highlights of which were published by The Manila Times on Tuesday.
Jaybee’s words are ‘the law’
On Wednesday, Sebastian and his alleged close ties to de Lima became the object of lawmakers’ scrutiny.
Martinez, leader of a 2,200-member Bilibid pack called the “Genuine Ilocano Group,” claimed Sebastian asked him in 2013 to raise drug money for de Lima’s Senate bid, an instruction that Sebastian also allegedly gave to Patcho and Baligad.
“Jaybee talked to me, asked for my help to sell drugs to fund the campaign of Secretary de Lima. Jaybee is our leader. He is in Secretary de Lima’s inner circle. His words are the law,” Martinez said in Filipino when quizzed by Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque.
Sebastian, Martinez claimed, also revealed a plan to centralize drug operations inside the prison through alliances with gang leaders.
“We were able to transact 200 kilos of drugs from 2013 to October 2014 … at that time, my relationship with Jaybee turned cold. I have remitted the money [raised]to Sebastian,” Martinez added.
Martinez claimed that he, along with other gang leaders, personally met de Lima in January 2013 through Sebastian.
Sebastian, who has refused to testify before the House, was said to have been used by de Lima as a mole in a bid to rid the Bilibid of drug syndicates.
“Even [prison]employees follow him (Sebastian). Who are we to defy him when he was the one in power?” Martinez said.
Patcho, head of the “Batman” gang, said he was convinced that Sebastian was raising funds for de Lima’s election campaign because she paid a visit to Sebastian’s luxurious Bilibid cell at least twice.
Patcho also claimed he referred a person to Sebastian who received five kilos of drugs worth P4.35 million from the Commando leader. The payment was remitted to a bank account whose number was provided by Sebastian, he said.
Patcho admitted that Sebastian never introduced him to de Lima.
“I wasn’t introduced by Jaybee to de Lima, but I know that he (Jaybee) is very influential to de Lima because there are a lot of inmates and yet she is only talking to Jaybee,” Patcho said.
Murder convict Jojo Baligad, a “Batang City Jail” member, claimed he remitted a total of P3.8 million not just to de Lima but also to other former officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) from January 2013 to September 2014.
In 2014 alone, inmate Herbert Colanggo thrice asked him for P500,000, to be remitted allegedly to de Lima, Baligad claimed.
Despite the payoffs, Baligad said, de Lima ordered his transfer along with other inmates like Colanggo in the so-called “Bilibid 19” group to the NBI Detention Center in Manila that had tighter security.
“Based on what I have heard, Secretary de Lima ordered our transfer [out of Bilibid]because Jaybee gave her the list of our names,” Baligad said.
Former BuCor Director Franklin Bucayu got P1.7 million, while Rafael Ragos, then BuCor officer in charge, received P600,000, Baligad claimed.
All witnesses were granted immunity from suit with the approval of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
The House justice committee also moved to subpoena Sebastian, whose Bilibid exploits were the subject of a Discovery Channel documentary shown at the House on Tuesday.
PSG probing Joenel
On Wednesday, the Presidential Security Group (PSG) said de Lima’s alleged bagman and former security aide Joenel Sanchez, a sergeant, had been placed under investigation and restricted to barracks.
“Upon hearing [of]his [involvement in]the House inquiry regarding Senator de Lima, the command immediately conducted investigation effective 18 September 2016,” PSG spokesman Lt. Col. Michael Aquino said in a news conference.
Sanchez is a member of the PSG who was recently assigned to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Aquino said. Sanchez was detailed to de Lima when she was Justice secretary.
Aquino said the PSG was willing to present Sanchez at the House inquiry. The PSG spokesman refused to disclose other details of their investigation.