By Macon Araneta
“Arrest me now! Jail me now, I’m here!” a visibly distraught Sen. Leila De Lima exclaimed, breaking into tears Wednesday as she challenged President Rodrigo Duterte to keep his promise to put her behind bars.
Unleashing her wrath, De Lima in a trembling voice, also told Duterte,”Do what you wnat to do with me, Mr. President. I’ll wait for you.”
“I wasn’t raised by my father to be a coward. That’s enough!” said De Lima who also asked Duterte to stop persecuting her. She said the President was hell bent on destroying her at all cost.
Following De Lima’s emotional speech at the Senate, the President, before embarking for a two-day state visit to Vietnam, advised her to take a break to avoid a nervous breakdown.
“I would suggest that she takes days off… I am afraid that if she continues she will have a nervous breakdown. In all sincerity, as a human being, honestly, I am not trying to denigrate her. She’s a lawyer. She’s bright. She’s breaking down,” said Duterte.
Justice Sec. Vitaliano Aguirre II also advised De Lima to stop the hysterics and face the allegations against her like a lawyer. He said De Lima should be more lawyerly in addressing the charges against her, instead of accusing the Duterte administration of coercing witnesses and fabricating evidence against her.
De Lima had her first public outbursts following insinuations by House of Representatives Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez that the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) riot, which occurred earlier that same day, could have something to do with the ongoing House investigation into the proliferation of dugs at the penitentiary during her term as justice secretary.
“Well, that is sad because apparently there are forces to prevent Jaybee Sebastian from testifying. We should look at the motive of those who want to conceal the truth,” said Alvarez.
Alvarez said Sebastian allegedly collected drug money from convicted drug lords inside Bilibid that bankrolled De Lima’s successful senatorial candidacy in the last May elections. De Lima has strongly denied accusations linking her to drugs.
De Lima confirmed Sebastian, a convicted kidnapper, was a “government asset” who gave information in the activities of drug syndicates in Bilibid.
Killed in the Bilibid fracas that started 7:45 am was convicted Chinese drug lord Tony Co. Sebastian, along with inmates Peter Co, Vicente Sy and former Police Chief Inspector Clarence Dongail were hurt in the riot, reportedly triggered by a shabu session. Co, Sy and Dongail belong to the so-called Bilibid 19 tagged by the previous Aquino administrafion as the ones running the illicit drug trade in Bilibid.
Sebastian, Co and Sy were taken to Medical Center Muntinlupa (MCM) where they have remained under observation. Sebastian and Co underwent surgery. Dongail, also an inmate at Building 14, had opted to be treated at the penitentiary.
Sebastian claimed he was attacked by inmate Tomas Dolina while watching television at the mess hall.
Dongail said he accosted the slain high profile inmate, Co and Sy after another prisoner reported to him seekng them in a pot session. Feeling bad, the victim followed him to the mess hall and attacked him.
However, convicted drug lord Peter Co claimed Dongail invited him to talk about the pot session so he brought Sy as a witness, but they were immediately attacked by the former policeman and another inmate when they entered Dongail’s cell.
Aguirre ordered a thorough investigation of the riot, and how the inmates still managed to get their hands on shabu despite the Bilibid being heavily guarded by the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP) men.
The four inmates were among the 19 high-profile detainees transferred to the temporary custody of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) after a raid initiated by De Lima in December 2014 to stamp out illegal activities in Bilibid. After eight months, they were brought back to Bilibid and detained at Building 14.
In a news conference, De Lima said, “I am not discounting the fact that this is another way of the government “persuading” the Bilibid 19 to testify against me, and that this incident should serve as a lesson to those who refuse to cooperate with the government and do Aguirre’s and Malacañang’s bidding.”
Sebastian has repeatedy refused to testify in the House probe on the alleged drug links of the former justice secretary to illegal drugs.
Citing an “A1” source, De Lima said she got the information that Sebastian was being pressured to testify against her. She read to the media text messages sent to her by her source which came to Sebastian’s wife. She said the messages showed that Sebastian was being pressured to concoct a story about her links to drugs in Bilbiid.
She emphasized that several of these prisoners declined and continue to refuse to testify in the House hearings that she was a “drug protector” in Bilibid during her stint at the Department of Justice.
“They should know, because I was the one who started all their misery by cutting them off from their drug trade and luxurious living quarters. They were also the ones who filed several cases against me, both criminal and administrative, with the Ombudsman because of their alleged ‘persecution’ after they were singled out for isolation in Bldg. 14,” insisted De Lima.
“While we understand that cleaning up the facility cannot be accomplished overnight,” Lacson pointed out, “it cannot also be denied that no less than Aguirre had bragged about the drastic reforms inside the Bilibid in the recent congressional hearings.”
Gordon said investigators should also dig into the cause of the riot and not just the result. He is baffled why there were shabu and knives inside the penitentiary when it is now being guarded by the SAF. “How come there were knives? Where did the knives come from?” he asked.
Meanwhile, a fuming mad De Lima assured that, “I am not going to leave this country and escape anything because there is nothing to escape from. There were pieces of advice from some well-meaning friends – ‘Leila, think about it, the President had just announced that he would have you in jail, look for assylum.’ Why should I do that? ” she said.
“I want to fight here in my country. I’m not a coward. Because I did nothing wrong. Only those who are hiding and who have are cowards but not Leila de Lima. My father did not raise me a coward. Enough!” said De Lima, who appeared in her fiercest self for the first time.
But she reminded the President anew: “Do not blame me later when, all of a sudden, it all blows up on your face, Mr. President, and you will realize that all these are wrong, all these are not true.”
Reacting on Duterte’s apology to Pangasinan Rep. Amado Espino Jr., Board Member Raul Sison and former provincial administrator Rafael Baraan, whom Duterte accused of being “drug protectors” and included in the drug matrix he earlier released to the media, De Lima said, “The President’s apology is a clear admission that there is really nothing in that ridicilous drug matrix that links me to the illegal drug trade. It is tragic that the highest official of the land has not only been fed lies and wrong information but also has listened to rumors and intrigues.”
“Most importantly, if this is the kind of information fed to the President, how reliable is the information fed to the PNP by barangay captains in Operation Tokhang? What does that tell us about barangay captains’ lists of drug pushers and addicts who are subjected to tokhang and vigilante assassinations based on said lists, even as the President himself is prone to mistakes?” she asked.
De Lima and Antonio Trillanes IV on Wednesday night filed a resolution seeking an investigation into the national penitentiary riot that led to the death of a convicted crime lord and the injury of four other inmates.
In Senate Resolution 174, De Lima and Trillanes sought an inquiry into the “apparent mismanagement and/or incompetence” of the Bureau of Corrections and PNP Philippine that allegedly sparked the riot.
Meanwhile, the House and the Senate have been divided on the showing of De Lima’s alleged sex videos, which Alvarez said would help them ferret out the truth.
Alvarez said he would allow the playing of the video if there was indeed a need to establish the sexual relationship between De Lima former driver bodyguard Ronie Dayan, who was reported as the senator’s alleged bagman.
De Lima had protested no such thing exist and the sex videos were all fake.
PNP Chief Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa earlier told Senate media he cannot open the sex video though he got several links so he cannot comment on them.
Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon said he personally believes that inter-parliamentary courtesy would call for a respect and courtesy to a fellow legislator.
He said ts is something he never heard of before.
Due to his, he urged Senate President Aquilino Pimentel and Alvarez to meet and discuss the plan to show the alleged sex videos of De Lima in the ongoing House investigation.
Pimentel III warned his fellow legislators at the House to be ready “to pay the political price” when they play De Lima’s alleged sex videos.
“A reminder to all fellow legislators to be responsible for our actions. Be sensitive to the sensibilities, the feelings and the effect of our actions on our fellow legislators. But if they should do some reckless action, be ready to pay the political price….We cannot be impeached, but we should be ready to pay the political price for our actions,” he said.
Whether or not the alleged sex videos were true, showing them was just too much and “foul,” said Trillanes IV.
Even Lacson was opposed to show the videos in the House inquiry, saying it was “inappropriate” and not “admissible” evidence anyway.
Sen. Grace Poe said it will serve no legal and practical purpose as the law makes such unlawful act of showing inadmissible in evidence in any judicial, quasi-judicial, legislative or administrative hearing or investigation.
Neophyte Senator Risa Hontiveros said the reported plan to play the alleged video was “clearly a case of misogyny.It is terrible. I don’t see how the showing of fake sex videos will promote the interest of truth and justice,” she said.