Duterte not behind House probe on Bilibid – Aguirre

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II denied Senator Leila De Lima’s allegation that Malacañang harassed the witnesses presented during the House probe on the illegal drugs trade inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP). 

Kayo naman ang makakasaksi. Kita ba ninyo ‘yung mga testigo na may itsurang hinarass ng Palace?… Kita mo kanina, ang mga witnesses ay talagang very relaxed, parang nagkukuwento kasi totoo ang sinasabi,” Aguirre told reporters at the end of the 10-hour hearing of the House committee on justice on Tuesday, September 20. 

(You were able to watch it. Did you see if the witnesses looked like they were harassed by the Palace?… Earlier, the witnesses were very relaxed, as if they’re just narrating a story because they’re telling the truth.)

Despite being invited by the House panel, De Lima refused to appear at the hearing, which she called a “sham inquiry” designed by President Rodrigo Duterte and his allies to discredit her name.

Duterte said in a speech at a military camp in the Compestella Valley on Tuesday that the House probe is a vindication of his earlier claims linking De Lima to illegal drugs. 

Aguirre also rejected De Lima's claims against the President. 

At hindi totoo ‘yung kanyang akusasyon na kaya itong ginaganap, itong House investigation na ito ay dahil sa utos ng ating Pangulong Duterte. Hindi po, hindi po totoo yan. Ako mismo ang makakapagsabi na kahit minsan ako ay hindi kinausap ni Presidente Duterte na imbestigahan itong kanyang (De Lima) involvement sa illegal drug trade sa loob ng Bilibid,” said Aguirre. 

(Her accusation that the House investigation was ordered by President Duterte is not true. I’m personally saying that President Duterte never talked to me to investigate her involvement on the illegal drugs trade inside Bilibid.) 

The 4 witnesses, who were granted immunity from suit by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, gave their testimonies on how drugs allegedly proliferated inside the NBP during De Lima’s term as Department of Justice (DOJ) chief:

In a privilege speech on Tuesday, De Lima belittled the House investigation and said the witnesses were drug convicts, criminals, and government officials who were hiding something. (READ: De Lima: Witnesses in House probe 'pressured, tortured’

She also alleged that some members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force, who are currently guarding the NBP, hold “overnight interrogation sessions” of inmates and gang leaders.  

Aguirre denied this, saying he only had the chance to personally talk to the witnesses early this week. 

Ang totoo nito, the first time na makausap ko ang mga testigong ito ay noon lamang nakaraang Linggo. Last Sunday lang… So 3 araw lang a ng nakakaraan (The truth is, I only talked to them for the first time last Sunday… So only 3 days has passed),” said the DOJ secretary.

Each of the witnesses executed signed affidavits ahead of their testimonies at the House of Representatives. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.