Drug lord admits he never met De Lima or financed her senatorial campaign — lawyer

Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com
Drug lord admits he never met De Lima or financed her senatorial campaign â lawyer
File photo shows detained opposition Sen. Leila de Lima.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 4:23 p.m.) — A convicted drug lord confirmed under oath that he never met or gave money to Sen. Leila de Lima, contradicting a previous claim that he contributed to her 2016 senatorial campaign, her lawyer said Friday night. 

"Vicente Sy previously testified and said that he contributed [P500,000] to Senator De Lima's campaign in 2012. But when we asked him earlier, he said that he never gave money to Senator De Lima and he also said that he did not know De Lima," the senator's legal counsel, Boni Tacardon said in Filipino. 

This occurred during a hearing at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 205 on Friday which was attended by De Lima via teleconference from her detention quarters at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City, her office said. 

"Also presented as prosecution witness in Criminal Case No. 17-165 was Public Attorney Office’s (PAO) lawyer Atty. Rigel Salvador who admitted that he had no personal knowledge of De Lima’s alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP)," De Lima's office said in a press release.  

According to Tarcadon, Salvador said he only notarized the testimony of a witness against De Lima Jaybee Sebastian, a convicted carnapper who the corrections bureau said died of coronavirus at the national penitentiary in July. The prosecution claimed that Sebastian wrote his sworn statement six days before his death. 

"When we asked Atty. Salvador, he admitted that he did not make the said statement by Jaybee Sebastian and his only participation in it was as a notary. He testified that he did not know its contents and he did not know if everything stated in it was true," Tarcadon said in Filipino. 

Prosecution witness Dennis Alfonso, an officer of the Bureau of Corrections, also confirmed that he did not discover any evidence implicating De Lima in the illegal drug trade inside NBP, her lawyer added.  

"De Lima recently filed two separate and distinct Motions for Bail for both Conspiracy to Commit Illegal Drug Trading cases, asserting that the Prosecution's evidence against her is not strong, and in fact confirms her innocence of the charges. These have been submitted for resolution," her office said. 

In late October, Tarcadon said that officials from the Anti-Money Laundering Council and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency testified that De Lima was not involved in any anomalous transactions linking her to the illegal drug trade inside the NBP.

Former solicitor general, opposition senators urge De Lima's freedom 

Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay on Saturday took to Twitter to react to these new developments, noting that the "government's own witnesses against Sen. Leila de Lima confirm that she has nothing to do with the drug trade." 

"Sen De Lima is innocent. This has always been the case and it continues to be so. The reasonable and just action is to set her free," Hilbay, who was a senatorial candidate in 2019, said. 

Sens. Risa Hontiveros and Kiko Pangilinan renewed their condemnation of what they called the fake charges against De Lima, both noting that testimonies from officials of AMLC, BuCor, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police, confirm her innocence. 

"Walang ebidensya, walang totoong kaso, (No evidence, no real case)," Hontiveros said on Twitter. 

It has been 1,352 days since De Lima was first arrested at the Senate.

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