‘Drug convicts not forced to testify vs Leila’

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MANILA, Philippines – The lawyer of convicted robbery and carjack gang leader Herbert Colanggo and several other inmates of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) claimed that the detainees were not coerced to testify against Sen. Leila de Lima at the House of Representatives’ inquiry on the proliferation of illegal drugs trade in the national penitentiary.

Lawyer Ferdinand Topacio denied the claim of De Lima in her privilege speech last Tuesday that Colanggo and his other clients – convicts Noel Martinez, German Agojo, Joel Capones and Jerry Pepino – were blackmailed, threatened, intimidated or even tortured into implicating her as alleged beneficiary of their illegal operations.

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“My clients have neither been threatened, cajoled, tortured nor intimidated, nor have they been subjected to torture, either physical or psychological. Also, her ridiculous claims that my clients have been plucked from the NBP to undergo interrogation at the ISAFP facility in Camp Aguinaldo are the stuff of which fantasies are made,” Topacio said in a statement yesterday.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II explained earlier that Colanggo and other NBP inmates voluntarily came forward and submitted their statements against De Lima.

Topacio said De Lima’s insinuation only showed her propensity for making untruthful and irresponsible statements devoid of factual bases.

He stressed that his clients were transferred to the custody of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines for security reason “as they fear for their lives after coming forward to testify against her, knowing of the criminal capabilities of her henchman, JayBee Sebastian, who shares Building 14 with them.

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“Their testimonies have also been taken under the supervision of the ISAFP in the presence of Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Rueda-Acosta, the National Bureau of Investigation and their private lawyers, with all proceedings duly videotaped,” the lawyer bared.

Topacio also said the Commission on Human Rights may check on his clients, as suggested by De Lima.

“I dare her to visit them herself, not only to see whether they are under any form of torture or duress, but to confront them and look them in the eye and ask them if what they are saying is true. I will even accompany her to their detention facility,” he added.

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