De Lima: Bilibid incident a scare tactic against inmates

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Sen. Leila De Lima says the casualties in the violent incident at the Bilibid share one thing in common: They all refused to testify against her and name her as a protector of drug lords.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Senator Leila De Lima believes Malacañang is behind the violent incident at the New Bilibid Prison, which she said is President Rodrigo Duterte's "desperate" tactic to persuade inmates to testify against her.

De Lima said inmates Tony and Peter Co, Vicente Sy, and Jaybee Sebastian, all refused to testify against her in the House probe on alleged drug operations at the Bilibid. She said they declined to name her as a protector of drug lords.

She added that as a result, they became the casualties in the incident that erupted early Wednesday in Building 14 of the maximum security compound — where high-profile convicts are held. Tony Co was killed, while the rest were rushed to Medical Center Muntinlupa for treatment.

"I am not discounting the possibility that this so-called riot is Malacañang's way of sending its message to prisoners who refuse to implicate me in the Bilibid drug trade," De Lima said in a press conference hours after the incident.

She reiterated that the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) troopers, which are manning Bilibid, are intimidating and torturing prisoners to fabricate testimonies against her. She said a gang commander, who she did not name, was recently subjected to psychological torture.

De Lima had several emotional outbursts as she described the "so-called riot" as a part of the government's "teleserye drama projecting me as the Bilibid drug queen."

"It makes this government an assassin state, a state that promotes murder and summary executions as policy and as a weapon against perceived enemies," De Lima said.

She added that if her accusations were true, she pleads to Malacañang "to stop these tragic, desperate and despicable actions."

"These prisoners are supposed to be under the government's protection."

Malacañang has not issued an official statement to answer De Lima's allegations.

Asked why the inmates would refuse to speak against her, De Lima said: "Maybe kahit mga drug convicts yan marunong pa rin naman makonsensya siguro."

[Translation: "Maybe even if they were drug convicts they still have conscience."]

'Sebastian being forced to testify'

De Lima also revealed alleged messages from Sebastian's wife, which she said was forwarded to her by a "credible source" days after witnesses said Sebastian was a king of drug lords and De Lima's financier in the May 9 elections.

Also read: DOJ will not present Sebastian in House probe on Bilibid drug trade

"Sir kakausapin ko si Jaybee ngayon para papayagin na magtestify na against De Lima. Siya na nadidiin ngayon, siya susi sa lahat… Lumalalalim po imbestigasyon, si De Lima lang naman kailangan nila," De Lima said, quoting the text which she said she received on September 21:

[Translation: Sir I will talk to Jaybee now to convince him to testify against De Lima. She is being implicated now, she is the key… The investigation is becoming more thorough but De Lima is all they need."]

"Alam ko mapapatawad kami ng mga anak ko at mga naniniwala sa kanya kung sakaling magdesisyon kami nang salungat sa prinspiyo namin," the message ended.

[Translation: "I know our children will forgive us and also those who believe in her if ever we decide against our principles."]

The next day, De Lima said her source again sent her a message saying the Sebastians' were being threatened through their businesses and bank accounts.

De Lima did not name her source, but said she stands by her source's credibility and can reveal his identity later at a proper forum.

But Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre denies that witnesses are being harrassed. He pointed out, the government wants Sebastian alive.

"Hindi ba pag namatay si Jaybee, sino magbebenefit? Hindi ba si De Lima? [If Jaybee dies, who will benefit? Isn't it De Lima?] Aguirre said.

The casualties in the incident are part of the so-called Bilibid 19, or convicted drug lords who were separated from the general prison population following a De Lima-led raid that exposed their lavish lifestyle on December 15, 2014.

Related: Convicted kidnapper: We were forced to sell drugs to fund De Lima campaign

Several witnesses in the House probe said Sebastian paid De Lima millions for the transfer of 19 inmates so he can monopolize drug trade at the Bilibid. De Lima, however said Sebastian was a "government asset," who gave authorities inside information about the illegal operations at the Bilibid.

Related: Who is Jaybee Sebastian?

'Officials making up stories'

De Lima also disputed official reports saying the incident started after inmates were caught using shabu inside the cell of Peter Co.

She said officials are making these stories up.

"Bilibid 14 is supposed to be the most guarded facility now. Nandiyan yung mga SAF tapos gagawan ng storyang ganyan, na nagshashabu kaya nagka-riot? (The SAF are there then they will make stories that the riot was caused by inmates using shabu?)" De Lima said.

De Lima also refuted House Speaker Bebot Alvarez' statements saying "there are forces" out to block Sebastian's testimony.

"Ano nanaman ang implication nila? Kagagawan ko nanaman yan? (Are they implying I am behind this?)" De Lima said.