Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – Amid the damning testimony against her, Senator Leila de Lima said inmate Jaybee Sebastian has given in to the "pressures" of the Duterte administration to testify against her at a congressional inquiry. (READ: Jaybee Sebastian: I gave P14M to De Lima, aide)
Citing "A1" sources, the senator said Sebastian was the main target of the supposed riot that occurred inside the Maximum Security Compound of the New Bilibid Prison on September 28.
Prior to this, she claimed Sebastian was being pressured to accuse her of involvement in the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the Bilibid.
"Apparently or obviously, Jaybee Sebastian has been pushed to the wall. Although for the past weeks, nakakabilib din si Jaybee dahil you know pinanindigan niya, 'di siya kaagad nakumbinsi (Jaybee was admirable because he stood by his principles, he did not easily give in). Now that he finally appeared there, sumama na rin siya sa mga kasinungalingan, ibig sabihin 'di na niya kaya ang pressure (he joined the lies, meaning he could no longer take the pressure)," De Lima told reporters on Monday, October 10.
In a previous interview, De Lima showed a supposed text message from Sebastian's wife to the senator's source.
In the message, the wife supposedly said she would plead with Sebastian to heed the administration's call to testify against De Lima out of fear for her husband's life.
"In other words, nakinig na siya sa asawa niya: 'Sundin mo na ang gusto nila dahil si De Lima lang naman ang habol nila. Maiintindihan din 'yan ni Senator De Lima," the senator said, recalling parts of the text message.
(In other words, he listened to his wife: "Just do what they want you to do because they are only after De Lima. Senator De Lima would understand it.")
Sebastian was mentioned as early as the first committee hearing but was not presented as a witness, supposedly because he was not willing to speak about the illegal drug trade inside the Bilibid, according to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.
Weeks after, he was hurt in a "riot" in the Bilibid, which killed one high-profile inmate. De Lima previously said the riot was meant to silence Sebastian, who, she said, had refused to testify against her.
"'Yung source ko nagsabi na ang target ng alleged riot sa 'Bilibid 19' ay siya. Papatayin daw dapat talaga siya. 'Yun ho alam ko. That can only be the explanation na 'di na niya nakakayanan," De Lima said.
(My source said the target of the alleged riot of the "Bilibid 19" is him. He was really meant to be killed. That's what I know. That can be the only explanation for why he can no longer take it.)
'Sebastian a gov't asset'
"Hindi po (No, I'm not)," said Sebastian, when asked by committee on justice chairman Representative Reynaldo Umali about De Lima's claims. (WATCH: LIVE: House justice committee hearing on the alleged Bilibid drug trade)
Despite Sebastian's denial, De Lima maintained he is "in a sense" a government asset, saying it was former Bureau of Corrections Director Franklin Bucayu and former Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission Executive Director Reginald Villasanta who told her about it.
Bucayu earlier testified in the House probe, accusing De Lima of sidelining the Philippine National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) during the top-secret raid at the NBP in December 2014.
"'Di ba ang nagsabi sa akin na asset siya ay sila General Villasanta at General Bucayu. Meron pa nga ako diyan, meron pa isa doon… assistant ni General Villasanta na nakakaalam din – Winnie something, an official before of PAOCC," De Lima said.
(General Villasanta and General Bucayu were the ones who told me Sebastian is a government asset. There's one more... an assistant of General Villasanta who also knows about it – Winnie something, an official before of PAOCC.)
For the senator, Sebastian is denying his being a government asset because of threats.
"Sila nagsabi sakin noon, na sa kanya [Sebastian] nanggaling ang ibang impormasyon hinggil sa mga kalakaran sa loob ng Bilibid. So in a sense asset siya, so kung 'di na niya inaamin ngayon, again kasama sa pag-pressure sa kanya. 'Di niya puwede aminin 'yan dahil nga ginagawa na siyang sinungaling including ang ganyang paratang na may binigay silang pera sa akin," De Lima said.
(They were the ones who told me that some of the information about the illegal activities at the Bilibid came from Sebastian. So in a sense he's an asset. If he isn't admitting it now, again it's because he's being pressured to testify against me. He can't admit that he's being forced to lie about me, including that allegation that they gave me money.)
Sebastian, according to testimonies of other convicts, was among the most influential inmates inside the national penitentiary, supposedly because of his links to De Lima. (READ: 'Jaybee Sebastian's law ruled Bilibid')
Proof of this, they claimed, was the special treatment Sebastian received after the December 2014 raid.
De Lima earlier said this was not true, explaining that Sebastian's exclusion from the "Bilibid 19," a group of convicts moved to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) after the raid, was because of his being a "government asset." – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org