Latin America

Aguirre: Sebastian a gov’t asset? ‘It’s a lot of bull’

Mara Cepeda
Aguirre: Sebastian a gov’t asset? ‘It’s a lot of bull’
'If Sebastian were really an asset, why did you not include him among the 19? What kind of information will you get if he's not part of it?' questions Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II scoffed at Senator Leila De Lima’s claim that influential New Bilibid Prison (NBP) gang leader Jaybee Sebastian is a government asset. 

The Department of Justice (DOJ) chief was asked on Thursday, October 6, to react to De Lima’s statement during the 3rd day of the House probe into proliferation of drugs at the national penitentiary when the latter was still justice secretary. 

“I could not believe it. In other words, it is only an afterthought. Why? First, if Jaybee Sebastian is an asset, why is he the king of the illegal drug trade?” said Aguirre. 

“And of course, gagawin mong asset ang alam ng lahat na siyang favorite mo (you’ll make someone everyone know is your favorite to be an asset)? So it’s a lot of bull,” added Aguirre. 

High-profile NBP inmate Noel Martinez previously testified that Sebastian’s law ruled the NBP

Witnesses have also claimed that De Lima gave preferential treatment to Sebastian because he supposedly collected millions of drug money within the NBP to help fund the senator’s campaign during the May polls. (READ: The public trial of Leila De Lima)

Aguirre also said Sebastian cannot be a government asset because he was not included among the “Bilibid 19,” high-profile inmates with supposed links to illegal drugs. 

If Sebastian was really an asset, bakit ‘yan di mo isasama sa 19? Eh anong makukuha mong impormasyon kung ihihiwalay mo?” he said.

(If Sebastian were really an asset, why did you not include him among the 19? What kind of information will you get if he’s not part of it?)

Aguirre added that “it is not the business” of any DOJ secretary to have any assets, as this is a practice commonly practiced by investigative agencies like the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), and the Bureau of Immigration. 

De Lima, however, had argued that Sebastian became an asset to dispel “wrong” speculations that he was a favored and protected inmate.  

The House committee on justice issued a subpoena for Sebastian to appear on Thursday, but he had to skip it as he was still nursing his injuries following a recent riot at the NBP’s Building 14.

On Thursday, former Police Officer 3 Engelberto Durano, serving time in the NBP for illegal drugs, claimed that he handed P1.5 million ($31,100) to De Lima upon the orders of the Jeffrey Diaz aka “Jaguar,” an alleged top drug lord in Cebu. – Rappler.com

US$1 = P48.13

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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.