Dead or alive? The convict-witnesses who testified against De Lima

August 4, 2021 - 4:11 PM
The entrance of the New Bilibid Prison, Luzon's main insular penitentiary. It is located in Muntinlupa, Manila. (PPP Center photo)

Sen. Leila de Lima, a staunch critic of the Duterte administration, raised the possibility of foul play upon hearing that one of the inmates who testified against her had died.

Convicted drug lord Vicente Sy on Sunday, August 1 was reported to have a sudden heart attack that killed him. Sy was a second witness in her case to die within a year.

“This beleaguering trend of witnesses dying still does not give comfort to me who is waiting for their eventual revelation on who are behind these fabricated charges filed against me. As they say, dead men tell no tales,” the senator wrote in a dispatch from Camp Crame.

“As they say, dead men tell no tales.”

In 2017, De Lima was jailed over drug charges filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ). She is accused of involvement in the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison when she was DOJ secretary during the Aquino administration.

Sy, as a witness of government prosecutors, had claimed that he gave De Lima P500,000 for her senatorial campaign and linked her to the illegal drug trade.

But in November last year, De Lima’s lawyers said Sy already admitted that what he had said against De Lima in the case were not true. He also did not know her.

Below is the list of convicted witnesses who provided unfavorable testimony against De Lima:

Dead convict-witnesses

Jaybee Sebastian

Sebastian, a drug convict, died from COVID-19 complications on July 20 last year.

He had claimed to have helped De Lima fund her 2016 senatorial campaign using drug money. The senator denied this.

Sebastian was one of four Bilibid inmates who was stabbed in a riot in September 2016.

Vicente Sy 

Sy, who died from cardiac arrest on July 29, was among those witnesses transferred to Fort Bonifacio due to security reasons.

Last year, Sy testified that he never met or gave De Lima money, revoking a prior statement the convict made in 2012, according to the senator’s lawyer.

Like Sebastian, Sy was also stabbed in a riot inside the New Bilibid Prison in 2016, but he survived.

He was among the 19 convicts dubbed as “Bilibid 19” who had a special detention area, which then-justice secretary De Lima dismantled in 2014.

Other convict-witnesses

Hans Tan 

Tan, currently detained at Philippine Marines Corps barracks in Taguig.

He was convicted of robbery and direct assault with murder.

Peter Co 

Co, a notorious drug lord, claimed that De Lima asked for his help to raise P10 million for her senatorial campaign in 2016.

Like Sy, Co was wounded in a riot inside the New Bilibid Prison and was also one of the “Bilibid 19.”

Jojo Baligad 

Jojo Baligad, convicted for violation of the anti-illegal drugs law, was among the 19 convicts in the New Bilibid Prison who had luxurious cells.

Noel Martinez

Martinez also had a lofty “kubol” inside the New Bilibid Prison.

He was convicted of kidnapping for ransom.

Froilan Trestiza 

Trestiza was convicted for kidnapping.

He was transferred from the New Bilibid Prison to a marine barracks in Fort Bonifacio for security purposes along with seven convicts who testified against De Lima.

Nonilo Arile

Convicted for murder and kidnapping.

He is among many other witnesses who received immunity from then-House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez for testifying at the House probe into the proliferation of drugs inside the prison.

German Agojo

Agojo was convicted of a violation of the anti-illegal drugs law.

Jaime Patcho

Patcho was convicted of kidnapping for ransom.

Joel Capones 

Capones testified that he saw drug lord Jaybee Sebastian give P1.4 million drug money to then Justice Secretary Leila De Lima inside the New Bilibid Prison in March 2014.

Capones was among the 19 other convicts whose luxurious “kubol” was swooped down by De Lima in 2014.

He was convicted for homicide and detained in Philippine Marines Corps barracks in Taguig.

Rodolfo Magleo

Magleo was convicted of kidnapping for ransom.

Herbert Colanggo

In March, the controversial prisoner, Herbert Colanggo claimed that their lives were in danger and there was a plan to sabotage his exposé in De Lima’s case.

Along with other high-profile inmates, Colanggo is detained in Camp Aguinaldo due to previous threats for their safety in New Bilibid Prison.

Like the others, Calonggo also had a luxurious kubol and was even able to record and release a music album from inside the penitentiary.

Engelberto Durano

Durano was convicted for frustrated murder and murder.