De Lima: Inmate Jaybee Sebastian a government asset

Camille Elemia
Senator Leila De Lima denies inmate Jaybee Sebastian got 'preferential treatment' following the 2014 Bilibid raid

ASSET. Senator Leila De Lima says inmate Jaybee Sebastian, who is accused of being favored and collecting drug money for her, is a government asset. Photo by Cesar Tomambo/PRIB

MANILA, Philippines – Neophyte Senator Leila De Lima on Thursday, September 22, said that inmate Jaybee Sebastian, who allegedly collected money inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) for her 2016 senatorial campaign, is in reality a government asset.

The senator, former justice secretary, said she disclosed this to dispel allegations that Sebastian was the one getting money for her. (READ: Bilibid gang leaders: Sebastian got funds for De Lima Senate bid

Some witnesses on Wednesday accused De Lima of giving preferential treatment to Sebastian – something that De Lima denied. They based the alleged special treatment on his non-inclusion in the so-called “Bilibid 19” following the raid on the NBP in December 2014.

The reason why I’m saying he’s an asset is to dispel ‘yung mga maling haka-haka, insinuations that the reason why hindi muna siya sinama sa Bilibid 19 is because favored, protektado and lalo na ‘yung insinuations na ‘yan siya kumolekta ng pera para sa akin,” De Lima said.

(The reason why I’m saying he’s an asset is to dispel the wrong speculations, insinuations, that the reason why he was not included in the Bilibid 19 is because he is favored, protected, and especially the insinuations that he collected money for me.)

The Bilibid 19 are high-profile inmates with supposed links to illegal drugs.

De Lima explained there were initial hesitations to include Sebastian with the other high-profile inmates because some members of the Bilibid 19 have an idea that Sebastian is a government asset.

“The real kunchaba there is nanggaling sa kanya ang ibang impormasyon and the Bilibid 19 alam nila siguro ‘yan….baka patayin,” she said.

(The information came from him and the Bilibid 19 probably knew this….He might get killed.)

But De Lima said when the inmates were transferred to Building 14, she pushed to have Sebastian included with the rest.

“But eventually noong nilipat na sila sa Building 14, I was still being advised ‘wag na muna isama because of that. Eventually, nang nalipat sa Building 14, nilipat na siya during the time of Rainer Cruz,” De Lima said.

(But eventually, when he was moved to Building 14, I was still being advised not to put him there because of that. Eventually, he was moved there during the time of Rainer Cruz.)

A witness testified in the House probe, claiming Sebastian’s law ruled Bilibid. (READ: ‘Jaybee Sebastian’s law ruled Bilibid’)

De Lima also confirmed the statement made by Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano who earlier said that Sebastian and another inmate, Herbert Colanggo, are rivals inside the Bilibid.

“Yes, but I cannot elaborate on that,” De Lima said, responding to questions.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said on the second day of the House probe into the drug trade at the Bilibid, that the justice department tried to get Sebastian to testify at the hearing, but the convict wanted to limit his testimony to the alleged corruption in food supply at the NBP.

On Thursday, De Lima said that since all the other witnesses at the House probe – mostly convicts – had implicated Sebastian, she would “not be surprised” if the government asset “would also testify.”

De Lima had earlier said that the witnesses presented by the Department of Justice at the congressional inquiry had been “pressured” and even “tortured” to testify against her, to fit the Duterte administration’s narrative that she received drug money.

All of the witnesses presented  by the DOJ at the House hearing, including two National Bureau of Investigation officials, were granted immunity from suit for anything they say at the inquiry. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com