De Lima: Witnesses in House probe 'pressured, tortured'

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Leila De Lima on Tuesday, September 20, accused the Duterte administration of pressuring witnesses presented at the House probe into her alleged role in the proliferation of illegal drugs in the New Bilibid Prison.

In a privilege speech a day after she was ousted as chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, De Lima belittled the House inquiry held on Tuesday, saying the witnesses are drug convicts, criminals, and government officials who are hiding something. (READ: FULL TEXT: De Lima's privilege speech on her ouster)

De Lima reiterated all the evidence against her are “false” and “fabricated.” (READ: Bilibid probe witnesses: We delivered P5-M 'quota' to De Lima)

“Sino naman po ang mga testigo nila? Mga preso sa Bilibid, mga convicted criminals, (Who are their witnesses? Prisoners in Bilibid, convicted criminals), DOJ or NBI officials and others who have an ax to grind against me, or those who have skeletons in their closet and are now being pressured to do Malacanang’s bidding at the risk of being charged themselves,” De Lima said in her privilege speech.

De Lima urged the Senate to investigate reports she received on the alleged state-sanctioned torture of inmates, in an attempt to invent allegations against her.

She alleged that some members of the Special Action Force deployed to the NBP hold “overnight interrogation sessions” of inmates and gang leaders. Two inmates testified before the House committee on justice that day – Herbert Colanggo and Rodolfo Magleo.

“[W]hich can also be a euphemism for psychological torture, all in an effort to fabricate testimony that I received bribes from drug lords,” De Lima added.

“The [New] Bilibid Prison under this Administration is now a tropical Gulag. Prisoners are being selected and isolated just to be intimidated into implicating me and to fit the President’s narrative that I am a drug lord coddler, aside from being the most evil woman in the planet,” she alleged.

'You'll have your day'

De Lima has repeatedly denied allegations against her. She now warned those who “fabricate” evidence that they would have their time to pay for their acts.

“Ang hindi ko mapapatawad ay ang mga nasa likod nitong pag-imbento ng ebidensiya laban sa akin. May araw din po kayo,” she said.

(What I could not forgive are the people behind this fabrication of evidence against me. You'll have your day.)

Despite the testimonies against her, De Lima said she has already forgiven the witnesses. After all, they were just forced to do so, she claimed.

“Sa puntong ito, gusto kong iparating ang aking pagpapatawad sa lahat ng tumatayo at tatayong witness laban sa akin sa House hearing. Alam ko na kayo ay napilitan at napuwersa lamang para idawit ako sa kung anumang anomalya sa Bilibid, gamit ang panggigipit, blackmail, o marahil pati torture,” she said.

(At this point, I want to let the witnesses know that I have forgiven you. I know that you were just forced to implicate me in whatever anomalies there are in the Bilibid through pressure, blackmail or maybe even torture.)

Aside from the House probe, De Lima is facing an ethics complaint, electoral protest, and a possible filing of charges by the Department of Justice. "Everything has been thrown at me except the kitchen sink. I am still waiting for the kitchen sink," she said.

Amid all of this, De Lima said she would not back down, adding it would take more than those “harassments” to “take her down.”

“I guess it would take two magazines of an Uzi machine pistol to take me down,” she said. – 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

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