WATCH | Lawyer denies info Bilibid inmates might retract statements vs De Lima

July 27, 2017 - 1:34 AM
PhilStar file photo of Sen. Leila de Lima

MANILA, Philippines – Statements about the possibility that high-profile inmates might recant their testimonies against Sen. Leila de Lima had prompted a lawyer of some of the prisoners to deny that his clients would do so.

Ferdinand Topacio on Wednesday said that he had met with Noel Martinez, Herbert Colanggo, Joel Capones, and Rodolfo Magleo last Tuesday at their detention cells in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City and he was assured by his clients that while they opposed being transferred back to the NBP’s maximum security compound, they were not thinking of taking back their testimonies against the detained lawmaker.

“I was in Camp Aguinaldo around 4 p.m. yesterday. Naka-log book ‘yan. I personally talked to them, so I know that for a fact. Ang stand nila dahil dito sa pagta-transfer, ang sabi sa’kin, while they do not want to be transferred, wala naman sinasabing magre-recant sila,” Topacio told reporters in a phone interview.

Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Monday, July 24, ordered the return of the inmates to their original detention facility at the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.

The order included the return to the NBP’s Building 14 of high-profile inmates who implicated De Lima in the drug trade inside Bilibid and testified that they had given millions of pesos to the lawmaker for her 2016 campaign kitty.

Topacio denied that his clients would retract their testimonies after another lawyer, Francis Acejas III, counsel of convicted former Batang City Jail commander Froilan Trestiza, told media during a press conference Wednesday morning that recantation “could be a possibility.”

“(A)nd that would be rather disastrous in a manner of speaking because if theses witnesses will not cooperate, then the privileges under the Witness Protection Program will be taken away from them. But what about the government’s effort to pin down some personalities?” Acejas further told reporters.

But later in the day, Acejas told media that the prisoners had no plans to take back their statements against De Lima and that Trestiza and high-profile inmates Jojo Baligad, Peter Co, and Vicente Sy were only appealing to Aguirre to reconsider his order.

“No. There is no such thing as recantation. Because right now, we do not want to jeopardize our appeal… for the DOJ secretary to consider ‘yong memorandum niya,” said Acejas.

Nonetheless, Topacio thought that the information about the witnesses’ alleged plan to recant their statements against De Lima could be part of a plot to weaken the cases against the senator.

“This guy is sowing dissension. I don’t know who’s pulling the strings. But someone is really trying to weaken the case against Sen. De Lima, and I cannot blame them because this involves life imprisonment sentences, and this involves the personal liberty of Sen. De Lima,” said Topacio.