LINGAYEN, Pangasinan: Rep. Amado T. Espino Jr. and former provincial administrator Raffy Baraan, named along with Sen. Leila de Lima in President Rodrigo Duterte’s “matrix” of individuals allegedly behind the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison, voluntarily submitted to a drug test and denied the accusations on Friday.
Provincial police director Sr. Supt. Ronald Oliver-Lee said Espino and Baraan executed affidavits and voluntarily went to him to clear their names, after he was tasked by the regional director, Chief Supt. Gregorio Pimentel, to conduct a probe.
Baraan is the brother of former Justice undersecretary Francisco “Toti” Baraan 3rd, who was also included in the drug matrix released by the President and has denied the allegations.
Both Espino and Raffy Baraan told The Manila Times there was no concrete evidence to link them to illegal drug operations inside the national penitentiary.
Espino pointed out that he had clashed with de Lima when she was Justice secretary in 2012, after she filed a murder case against him for allegedly masterminding the killing of Infanta town mayor Ruperto Martinez in December 2011.
“How come I’m affiliated and connected to de Lima now?” Espino asked.
His co-accused in the murder case was Jesus Celeste, now a Pangasinan representative, who was earlier included by Duterte in his list of “narco-politicians.”
Also named in the matrix was Provincial Board Member Raul Palisoc-Sison, a relative of Ronnie Palisoc-Dayan, de Lima’s former driver-bodyguard who allegedly collected money from drug syndicates at the prison.
Sison’s son, Raul Sison 2nd, the mayor of Urbiztondo town where de Lima allegedly bought a house for Dayan and where Dayan is a resident, rejected the accusations.
Mayor Sison told reporters his father was not involved in the illegal drug trade inside the Bilibid, saying the politician would submit himself to an investigation after returning from the United States this week.
The Pangasinan Provincial Board, headed by Vice Governor Jose Ferdinand Calimlim Jr., approved resolutions expressing their support to Espino, Sison and Raffy Baraan.
Raps to be filed
Malacañang however warned the personalities tagged in the matrix released by President Duterte on Thursday that they could face graft charges.
“If and when they have been verified, charges may have to deal with graft and drug-related graft,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters.
The Palace official maintained that the information that formed the basis of the matrix was verified, “but details are being worked out.”
De Lima’s allies however said the matrix should not be treated as “gospel truth.”
“Based on the past statements of President Duterte, I am not taking them as gospel truth as he often takes back what he said,” said Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, a former Marine captain, said.
Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas said: “The President has access to high-level information and said he can prove it (matrix). But it is only when that time comes can we have a real appreciation of what the matrix says. Nevertheless, I hope this [matrix]will bring us to the truth.”