Press Release
July 5, 2019

De Lima's camp: Drug witnesses to testify without immunity

Senator Leila M. de Lima's camp disclosed that the convicted felons eyed as prosecution's state witnesses in the trumped-up charges against her are not immune from prosecution and therefore are likely to incriminate themselves when they testify on their participation in the Bilibid drug trade.

Atty. Filibon Tacardon, a member of De Lima's legal team, recalled that during the oral arguments at the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 206, last June 28, the Prosecution admitted that the convicted felons' potential judicial admissions may be used against them.

"The Prosecution expressed that they could not assure the immunity of the convicted felons. If indeed the convicts' judicial admission may be used against them, then the Prosecution shall then be 'forced' to file the necessary cases against these convicted felons in fulfillment of their duty to prosecute," Tacardon said.

During the oral arguments on De Lima's motion seeking to disqualify 13 convicts as state witnesses against her, Muntinlupa RTC Branch 206 Judge Liezel Aquiatan gave the prosecution and defense teams 15 minutes each to argue their case.

In opening up the oral argument, De Lima's camp maintained that it is an undisputed fact that no law or rule allows criminals convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude to testify as state witnesses.

De Lima's lawyers cited Section 10 (f) of Republic Act No. 6981, also known as the "Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act," which states that criminals convicted of such crimes are not qualified to turn state witness.

The Prosecution, for its part, responded that it is not presenting the convicted felons as state witnesses under Section 10 of RA No. 6981, but rather as ordinary witnesses pursuant to Rule 130 of the Rules of Court.

"We need to understand that an ordinary witness under Sec 3 of RA 6981 and Rule 130 has no immunity from prosecution. This is very clear under Sec. 3. Only state witnesses under Sec. 10 enjoys immunity because that is what is stated in Sec. 10 itself. Thus, we raised our concern that, if the witnesses are being presented as ordinary witnesses as the state prosecutors claimed, were the witnesses properly informed of their constitutional rights, particularly their right against self-incrimination and their Miranda rights or right to remain silent?" Tacardon said.

Weighing in on this significant development, De Lima remarked: "Remember, these same inmates-witnesses previously testified during the hearings before the House Committee on Justice then chaired by then Rep. Reynaldo Umali. They did so under the guarantee or protection of a supposed immunity extended to them by the DOJ under then SOJ (Vitaliano) Aguirre, pursuant to the WPP Law, upon recommendation of the then House leadership. Pero ngayon, wala na silang immunity. Mukhang na-estafa ng gobyerno ang mga convicts na yan! In its obsession in persecuting me, this regime has resorted to foul schemes, such as striking a deal with convicts, only to drop them."

In the oral arguments, the DOJ prosecutors also claimed that De Lima's camp should not be given information about the said inclusion of the convicted felons under the Witness Protection Program (WPP) because it is supposedly confidential.

"In fact, the State prosecutors themselves claimed that they are unaware if the convicted felons have been covered under the Witness Protection Program or granted immunity," Tacardon said.

"If that's the case, then it only proves that no government witnesses, not even (former Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge Rafael) Ragos and (former National Bureau of Investigation agent Jovencio) Ablen Jr. are safe from prosecution. Anytime, pwede silang ilaglag ng gobyerno," he added.

In their previous appearances before the court, Ragos and Ablen admitted to having knowledge about the drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison but they failed to file any formal report about it. They even accused each other of involvement in the illegal drug trade.

De Lima, a staunchest critic of the administration's war on drugs, has always maintained her innocence from all fabricated drug charges lodged against her before Muntinlupa RTC Branches 205 and 206.

She has consistently insisted that the conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading charges against her were all based on orchestrated lies and perjured testimonies of convicted criminals and other witnesses, like Ragos and Ablen.

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