Solon's concern: Granting pardon to reward probe witnesses

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Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — A party-list representative sounds the alarm over the possibility of some Bilibid convicts going free in return for testifying at the recent House probe of illegal drug trade at the national penitentiary.

Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said on Tuesday that five of the 12 witnesses during the congressional probe might be rewarded with a pardon, probation, or an executive clemency.

A letter sent to Alejano by the Board of Pardons and Parole showed that Engelberto Durano, Nonilo Arile, Jaime Pacho, Jojo Baligad and Vicente Sy had pending applications for pardon, probation, and executive clemency.

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Alejano added these witnesses were given immunity and witness protection when they testified — so approving these requests might also be possible.

The lawmaker maintained these witnesses were polluted and were only forced to testify.

He said they were more concerned about their safety and comfort even if it meant lying under oath.

"Hindi na sila natatakot makulong kasi nakakulong na ang mga iyon," he pointed out.

[Translation: They are not afraid anymore to be sent behind bars (for lying) because they are already serving time.]

Witnesses presented by the Justice department had said that they were neither given any promises nor coerced to testify at the House.

Meantime, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said it would be possible that these requests for pardon, probation, and executive clemency would be granted since they would have to be approved by the Department of Justice — the same agency which presented them at the probe.

House Justice Committee Chairman Rey Umali, however, said he was not aware that the convicts-turned-witnesses had pending applications.

Umali said the granting of the pardon, probation, or executive clemency would be the prerogative of the President.

CNN Philippines' Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.