An honest-to-goodness quest for truth demands that all sides must be heard. So, may we expect the House Committee on Justice to subpoena Jaybee Sebastian to testify before the panel?
Sebastian, leader of the “Commando Gang” at the National Bilibid Prison, has been front and center in the ongoing House inquiry into the trafficking of illegal drugs at the NBP. He has been named by leaders of other prison gangs as the solicitor of drug money allegedly for the campaign of then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre told the House panel that they asked Sebastian to testify but only on the issue of catering. He said Sebastian refused and wanted to talk about everything he knew on drug trafficking at the NBP.
It will be a travesty to the search for truth and justice if Sebastian’s testimony will be limited to what Aguirre and the DOJ want. Allow him to talk about everything that he personally knows. Don’t confine his talks to catering, or his alleged closeness to De Lima. After all, as the committee chair Rep. Rey Aldo Umali said, the inquiry isn’t directed at Senator De Lima.
The committee can refute claims that it is a kangaroo court against De Lima by allowing Sebastian to execute his affidavit and testify without the participation of Aguirre and the DOJ. So far, all resource persons who have appeared before the panel were all witnesses of Aguirre. Was he really a government agent who informed the DOJ on the extent of drug trafficking inside the prison walls? Was he really that close to De Lima?
There’s a completely valid reason why the House panel should limit the participation of Aguirre. President Rodrigo Duterte had already made strong pronouncements on the issue and personalities involved. Since Aguirre is an alter ego of the President, he’s not expected to produce evidence or witnesses that could prove the President wrong.
To allay suspicions that the committee is under the thumb of Aguirre and the DOJ, it should no longer allow Aguirre to monopolize the proceedings. In the last two hearings, members of the committee were given only a few minutes to ask questions because Aguirre used up most of the time interrogating his own witnesses.
It’s also about time that the House Committee on Justice bring in its own witnesses or resource persons instead of relying completely on Aguirre and the DOJ. On this issue, it should summon former Deputy Director-General Marcelo Garbo of the Philippine National Police, former Bureau of Corrections chief Franklin Bucayo, and retired Gen. Reginald Villasanta, former head of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission. They should be asked why the NBP raid planned by Gen. Benjamin Magalong, then head of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, was abandoned.
Magalong, now deputy director-general for operations of the PNP, dropped a bombshell at the House hearing when he said that De Lima proceeded to raid the NBP without his participation. Magalong is a highly respected career officer and nobody can say that he’s allowing himself to be used against anybody. However, what if it’s true, as claimed by De Lima, that the DOJ already had a plan before Magalong presented his? What if it’s true that personal clashes prevented Magalong’s plan from seeing fruition?
None of the high-value prisoners presented by Aguirre saw money being given to De Lima. A Bureau of Corrections OIC axed by De Lima and an agent of the National Bureau of Investigation did testify that they personally delivered P5 million to De Lima at her Paranaque residence in 2012. However, Aguirre said they didn’t have enough evidence to file charges against her.
Even without charges being filed, unfortunately, her reputation is already soiled. This goes true to her former clerk who was falsely reported to have deposited P24 million in her account? And how about the so-called “narco-generals?” They’ve been named and shamed but no charges have been filed against them. Ah, but they’re luckier than the suspected drug pushers who were killed for allegedly resisting arrest.
All right-thinking Filipinos want President Duterte to succeed in his war against illegal drugs. And just because a vocal few want this campaign to be waged in a civilized, lawful way doesn’t mean they’re supporting those engaged in drugs. I hope this could be understood by the millions of Duterte admirers.