House probe on Bilibid to push through with or without Sebastian
MANILA, Philippines – House committee on justice chairperson Reynaldo Umali says they will hold the next set of hearings on drug proliferation inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) on October 5 to 7, whether or not high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian will attend.
“Meron pa rin, kasi nai-set na ‘yan, nakapag-announce na kami and there are other witnesses…Nagawa na ‘yung mga invitations, nakapagbigay na kami ng mga notice,” said Umali on Wednesday, September 28, the same day Sebastian figured in a riot at the NBP that injured him and 3 others as well as killed high-profile inmate Tony Co.
(We will still hold the hearings because we have made the announcement and there are other witnesses. We have made the invitations and issued the notice.)
Aguirre II did not disclose the extent of Sebastian’s injuries but he said the inmate is already “stable.”
“Hindi naman siya lang ang importante rito (He’s not the only one important here). Sebastian is not the be-all and end-all of this committee hearing, especially now that we have invited other resource persons,” added the lawmaker.
Congressmen are currently looking into how drug use became prevalent at the NBP when Senator Leila de Lima was still justice secretary.
Sebastian is one of the 5 individuals whom the House panel plans to subpoena for the hearings next week.
Past witnesses during the first two hearings claimed that Sebastian, an influential gang leader at the NBP, supposedly collected millions of pesos in drug money from within the national penitentiary to help fund De Lima’s 2016 senatorial bid.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez considered that “forces” out to derail the ongoing House investigation were behind the riot.
For Umali, the incident at the NBP on Wednesday should not get in the way of Sebastian appearing before the House committee on justice.
“Ano ba ‘yung injury niya? (What are his injuries?) Kung ‘di naman debilitating ‘yun (If they’re not debilitating), he must appear. Kung debilitating – you know, he really cannot come – then probably we can spare him for the next hearing,” said Umali.
“As I said, his civil rights are suspended. He is under the custody of NBP, of BuCor, and the Department of Justice. So when we directed the Department of Justice to do that, they have every means to bring them to the hearing,” he added.
Aguirre had earlier told GMA News Online that Sebastian will likely testify to protect De Lima.
“He will testify for De Lima because he did not execute a sworn statement against her. He will be protecting his own skin,” said Aguirre. – Rappler.com
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