MANILA – Gang leaders on Wednesday appeared before a House of Representatives’ panel to further pinpoint the alleged involvement of Senator Leila De Lima in the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
During the House Justice Committee’s inquiry into the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the national penitentiary, Noel Martinez and Jaime Patcho, who are both gang leaders, testified that fellow inmate Jaybee Sebastian asked them separately to raise campaign funds for then Justice Secretary De Lima.
Martinez, commander of Genuine Ilocano Group with 2,200 members, said he was approached by Sebastian in February 2013 to fund De Lima’s senatorial bid in exchange of protection and preferential treatment.
Sebastian further revealed to Martinez his plan to centralize drug operations inside the NBP through forging alliances with gang leaders.
Although Martinez declined being directly involved in the drug trade, he referred persons outside the NBP who can sell the illegal substances. Martinez also handled the remittance of drug money to Sebastian.
“Hiniling ko na lamang kay Jaybee, at siya ay pumayag, na ako ay magri-reto na lamang sa kanya ng mga pwedeng magbenta sa labas ng Bilibid (I requested Jaybee, which he accepted, to allow me instead to refer people who can sell (drugs) outside the Bilibid),” Martinez said.
“Lahat ng transakyon nila ay alam ko dahil sa tuwing nagdedeposito sila kay Jaybee ay itinitext nila sa akin ang detalye. Ito ang basehan ko upang matiyak na nagri-remit ng maayos ang referral ko (I know all their transactions because they inform me through text messages whenever they make deposits to Jaybee. This serves as my basis to verify if my referrals have remitted correctly),” he added.
Martinez said he, along with other gang leaders, personally met De Lima in January 2013 through the introduction of Sebastian.
On the other hand, Patcho, commander of Batman, was approached by Sebastian to involve him in the selling of drugs to bankroll the senatorial campaign of De Lima.
Patcho referred a person to Sebastian who received five kilos of drugs worth PHP4.35 million from Sebastian. The payment was remitted in through a bank account provided by Sebastian.
Patcho noted that the deal lasted for four to five months. At times, the deposit was made twice a week.
The Batman commander said he agreed to the deal fearing Sebastian’s words, which are regarded as law inside the national penitentiary.
Another witness, murder convict Jojo Baligad, said he had remitted a total of PHP3.8 million not just to De Lima but also other former executives of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) from January 2013 to September 2014.
Baligad, a Batang City Jail member, revealed that of this amount, De Lima received PHP1.5 million.
Furthermore, former BuCor Director Franklin Bucayu got PHP1.7 million, while the then BuCor officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos received PHP600,000.
All witnesses were granted immunity from suit through House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’ approval.