Solgen, De Lima clash on drugs

Mike Frialde - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - In the company of crooks?

Solicitor General Jose Calida yesterday announced he would investigate why Sen. Leila de Lima was “rubbing elbows” with a convicted drug lord at the national penitentiary.

Calida showed a photo of two people, purportedly De Lima and convict Jaybee Sebastian clad in an orange prison uniform. Both were seated side by side as if attending a gathering.

De Lima categorically denied drug links and denounced “in the highest possible terms this latest demolition job” linking her to Sebastian.

Calida said the photo was taken at the “kubol” or hut of Sebastian inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) during the tenure of a “certain justice undersecretary.”

In a press conference, Calida asked the reporters to identify the two people in the photograph.

“Now what is a justice secretary doing in the kubol of this prison mayor? Could you give me an answer to that? You media people are very intelligent. Please help us because we will investigate the persons here (photo) if you can identify them,” he said.

“Is this appropriate for a justice secretary? To be rubbing elbows with a convicted felon? Is this appropriate? Of course not,” Calida said.

Calida said he would investigate De Lima’s alleged connection with Sebastian, stressing it is part of his job as solicitor general.

“So this is our message. Public officials who are coddling drug lords and criminals, will be investigated by us. This is part of our social justice advocacy. Our advocacy is to put these politicians and government officials who are coddling the drug lords and traffickers to jail,” he said.

In a statement, De Lima said, “I categorically deny any insinuation of me extending any protection or accommodation to any criminal. My personal and professional records would belie all accusations hurled against me which are obviously intended to malign my good name and reputation and to undermine the performance of my lawful duties as a senator.”

“Attorney Jose Calida, who once served as justice undersecretary and acting secretary during the Arroyo administration, should have known better that public servants like us conduct meetings, and/or attend events or activities with all kinds of people in pursuance of official duties, similar to the much publicized meeting or encounter between PNP Director General Ronald de la Rosa and several convicts like Herbert Colangco, Peter Co, and Jaybee Sebastian,” she added.

De Lima said she was still justice secretary when she attended several Management Committee (ManCom) meetings of the Department of Justice (DOJ), including one hosted by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

In one of those meetings, which she said was covered by members of the media at the premises of the NBP and attended by other top officials of the DOJ, De Lima recalled some ManCom members mingled with some inmates during certain activities on the same day as part of the reformatory program of BuCor.  

She said it was most likely there where the photograph showed by Calida was taken.

“May I suggest for Calida to stop his fixation on throwback Thursday photos of me, and instead just start doing his real job of reading the 501-page decision on the West Philippine Sea case?” De Lima said.    

“Meanwhile, I warn those who are attempting to implicate me to any illegal activity, and much less to illegal drugs which I have always fought: you will be frustrated. While I have been patient with all the attacks, I will never be intimidated. Rather, I will remain steadfast in fulfilling my sworn duty as senator to uphold the Constitution and human rights,” she said. – Marvin Sy


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