DOJ: Jaybee Sebastian's death no effect in case vs De Lima

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
DOJ: Jaybee Sebastian's death no effect in case vs De Lima
This file photo shows high-profile convict Jaybee Sebastian as he testified in Congress against Sen. Leila de Lima during the 2016 probe on the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison. The NBP reported that Sebastian died of acute myocardial infarction related to COVID-19 at the NBP Hospital on Friday.
The STAR / Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — The death of convict Jaybee Sebastian, accused drug lord inside the New Bilibid Prison, does not affect the state prosecution’s case against Sen. Leila de Lima, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

Guevarra told reporters that Sebastian is just one of the many witnesses in conspiracy to commit drug trading case against De Lima.

“His loss does not affect in any significant manner the overall strategy of the prosecution in the pending criminal cases,” he added.

Sebastian is one of the COVID-19 deaths recorded at the national penitentiary, the Bureau of Corrections confirmed on Monday.

He was a convicted carnapper and stood witness against De Lima in the congressional hearings into the lawmaker’s supposed hand in the proliferation of drug trade in Bilibid during her stint as DOJ chief.

The National Bureau of Investigation is already looking into circumstances surrounding the death of Sebastian and eight other high-profile inmates.

State prosecutors also charged Sebastian along with De Lima. He pleaded guilty to the case in September 2018.

De Lima moves for bail

In a hearing in February 2020, Muntinlupa Judge Liezel Aquiatan gave the prosecution until May 29 to present all its witnesses, but proceedings have been derailed due to the coronavirus.

De Lima, in her latest dispatch from her detention room in Camp Crame, said her legal team is still assessing the impact of Sebastian’s death on the cases against her. But she maintained that testimonies against her are all fabricated anyway.

“One less fabrication might be good in my case... Whether the fabricator is dead or alive does not change the fact that their stories are all lies and that the cases against me are all fake,” she added.

De Lima sought to be allowed to post bail in June, the first time since she was detained in February 2017.

Her lawyer argued: "In the instant case, the prosecution, after presenting most of its witnesses, miserably failed to establish the required proof evident or presumption great that accused De Lima violated Section 26(b) in relation to Section 5 and Section 3 of [Republic Act 9165].”

"With this failure of the prosecution to provide evidence, let alone strong evidence, it behooves upon this Honorable Court to allow accused De Lima to post bail as a matter of right," the motion further read.

De Lima reiterates call for improvement of jail, prison conditions

De Lima, also a former DOJ chief, also raised the alarm on conditions in Philippine jails and prisons, especially amid the pandemic.

“Regardless of who the dead are, whether free citizens or [Persons Deprived of Liberty], they shall remain to be counted as the victims of the incompetence, indifference, and impunity of the Duterte administration in dealing with the pandemic that has resulted in more suffering for our people,” she said.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines, also on Tuesday, said this might be the time to assess “whether or not our prisons comply with the [United Nations] Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners and adequately achieves the objectives of deterrence, restraint, reformation, retribution and restoration.”

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