Latin America

2 more Bilibid drugs probe witnesses granted immunity

Mara Cepeda
2 more Bilibid drugs probe witnesses granted immunity
Nonilo Arile and Engelberto Durano are the latest witnesses to receive immunity from Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez

MANILA, Philippines – Another two inmates of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) received immunity from Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez for testifying at the House probe into the proliferation of drugs inside the prison.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II told the House committee on justice that witnesses and NBP inmates Nonilo Arile and Engelberto Durano requested to received immunity on Thursday, October 6, the 3rd day of the probe. 

Alvarez then issued his letters of approval at around 11 am.

The letters read: “Under Section 12 of the aforementioned Act, you shall be entitled to immunity from any and all criminal prosecution for the offense or offenses in which your testimony will be given or used and all the rights and benefits provided under Section 8 of the same law; Provided, that you shall tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in the said legislative investigation.”

 

That makes a total of 12 witnesses who received immunity from the Speaker, who is allied with President Rodrigo Duterte. (READ: Immunity granted to 4 more witnesses in Bilibid drugs probe)

The House of Representatives is currently investigating the illegal drug trade inside the NBP when De Lima, the President’s fiercest critic, was still justice secretary. 

Witnesses previously testified before congressmen that De Lima supposedly allowed drugs to proliferate inside the NBP, allegedly benefiting from millions of drug money to fund her 2016 senatorial bid.

Among her alleged bagmen are her former security aide Joenel Sanchez, who is testifying on Thursday but did not request for immunity, and her former driver and bodyguard Ronnie Dayan, with whom Duterte accused De Lima of having an illicit affair.

The President himself first brought to public attention a supposed sex video of De Lima, which was originally planned to be presented at the House investigation. Alvarez said he saw nothing wrong with publicizing the video as it would reveal the true relationship between De Lima and Dayan. (READ: Establishing evidence: Alternatives to showing the ‘De Lima’ video)

This was met by strong opposition from various groups and female lawmakers, prompting Aguirre on October 4 to announce that the video will no longer be shown. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.