Additional witnesses seek to withdraw testimonies vs De Lima

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
Additional witnesses seek to withdraw testimonies vs De Lima
Former Philippine senator and human rights campaigner Leila de Lima (C), accompanied by supporters, arrives for a press conference at a hotel in Manila on Nov. 13, 2023 after leaving the police custodial center at Camp Crame. Philippine human rights campaigner Leila de Lima was "triumphant" on November 13 after a judge granted her bail, putting her a step closer to freedom after nearly seven years behind bars.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — A group of seven witnesses have expressed their intent to retract their testimonies in the final pending drug case against former senator Leila de Lima.

The incarcerated witnesses—Germa Agojo, Tomas Doniña, Jaime Patcho, Wu Tuan Yuan (known as Peter Co), Engelberto Durano, Jerry Pepino, and Hans Anton Tan—jointly penned a letter to the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 206, citing they had "faced unimaginable threats", and indicating their desire to retract their testimonies.

"At this point, we would like to state that our participation as witnesses in the drug cases against former DOJ (Department of Justice) Secretary De Lima was vitiated by undue compulsion and influence, and thus, any judicial statement made by us, is void of lack of consent," the witnesses said in a signed letter dated Nov. 17, 2023.

"We no longer desire to live our lives with the knowledge that we allowed ourselves to become pawns or instruments of injustice. We wish to live a life of dignity, integrity, and responsibility moving forward," they added.

The witnesses, however, did not mention who coerced them to testify against the former lawmaker. 

In October, two witnesses Rodolfo Magleo and Nonilo Arile also recanted their testimonies against De Lima, saying that they were bothered by "good conscience."

The seven inmate-witnesses also claimed that the stabbing incident within the New Bilibid Prison in 2016 served as evidence of the dangers they faced.

"Proof that such threat to our lives was real and imminent was the stabbing incidents that transpired at the NBP premises in September 2016 resulting in the actual death of one PDL (person deprived of liberty), and seriously injuring several others," they said.

The inmate-witnesses also requested their transfer from Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm to another facility. 

The letter retracting the statement was included in De Lima's urgent motion filed at the Muntinlupa RITC on November 21. 

The request urged the transfer of the seven individuals from Sablayan prison to a suitable facility within the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.

De Lima spent nearly seven years behind bars before Judge Gener Gito of Muntinlupa RTC Branch 206 granted her bail on November 13. 

Prior to that, she had been cleared of two out of three allegations related to participating in illegal drug trading schemes.

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