Jaybee Sebastian denies De Lima claim: I'm no gov't asset

TESTIFYING VS DE LIMA. Inmate Jaybee Sebastian appears at the House on October 10, 2016.

Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Contrary to Senator Leila de Lima’s claims, convicted kidnapper and carnapper Jaybee Sebastian on Monday, October 10, denied that he was a “government asset” as he appeared at a House probe into the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa. 

Sebastian is the key witness in the House of Representatives committee on justice's fourth hearing on the spread of illegal drugs inside the supposedly high-security prison and De Lima's supposed links to the illicit trade. 

"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: Justice committee hearing on alleged Bilibid drug trade)

His appearance came barely 2 weeks after he was hurt in a "riot" in the NBP, 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. (READ: The public trial of Leila de Lima)

Granted immunity

Sebastian was mentioned as early as the first hearing of the committee but was not presented as a witness, supposedly because he was not willing to speak of the illegal drug trade inside Bilibid, according to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II. 

Unlike other convicts – witnesses of Aguirre – Sebastian was not immediately granted immunity from suit. It was Aguirre himself who requested and recommended the granting of immunity to other witnesses

The justice committee, however, moved for Sebastian's immunity. And at around 11:40 am Monday, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez granted Sebastian immunity.

Influential? 

Sebastian, according to testimonies of other Bilibid convicts-turned-witnesses, was among the most influential inmates inside the prison, supposedly because of his links to De Lima. (READ: 'Jaybee Sebastian's law ruled Bilibid')

Proof of this, other witnesses claimed, was the special treatment Sebastian received after a December 2014 raid on the Maximum Security Compound, where inmates suspected of having links to illegal drugs are housed. 

De Lima has 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 2014 raid, was because of his being a "government asset."

The House committee was launched to probe the spread of illegal drug use inside Bilibid and the impunity in which convicts continued to run their illegal drugs trade even while in prison. 

So far, it has focused on De Lima's supposed role in allowing the drug trade to proliferate and how she supposedly raised funds for her 2016 senatorial run thanks to Bilibid convicts.  

Other inmates, including Herbert Colanggo, had earlier alleged they gave De Lima millions in drug money, supposedly through her aides. 

The hearing is ongoing as of posting. – Rappler.com