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NBP inmates not blackmailed to testify vs De Lima – lawyer

Contrary to the claims made by Senator Leila de Lima, high-profile inmates of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) assured yesterday that they were not blackmailed into testifying against her.

“My clients have neither been threatened, cajoled, tortured nor intimidated, nor have they been subjected to torture, either physical or psychological,” read a statement from lawyer Ferdinand Topacio.

Topacio is the counsel for high-profile Bilibid prisoners Herbert “Ampang” Colanggo, Noel Martinez, German Agojo, Joel Capones and Jerry Pepino.

The lawyer reacted to De Lima’s claim in her privilege speech at the Senate that the prisoners were coerced into making the testimonies against her.

Topacio said that “Sen. Leila de Lima has again shown her propensity for making untruthful and irresponsible statements devoid of factual bases.”

The five inmates have been tapped by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to testify before House of Representatives’ inquiry into the proliferation of illegal drugs at the NBP.

So far, Colanggo and Martinez have been presented among other witnesses since the hearing began on Tuesday.

Prior their scheduled appearance at the House, the five prisoners were among those who were transferred to the facility of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) in Camp Aguinaldo where De Lima claimed they were interrogated.

To this, Topacio described De Lima’s claims “ridiculous” and “the stuff of which fantasies are made.”

“For the information of the good (looking) Senator, my clients have been transferred to a secure detention facility 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,” Topacio said.

Inmates have testified that Sebastian, a convicted carnapper and kidnapper, had given instructions to leaders inside the penitentiary to help fund the campaign kitty of Senator Leila de Lima.

Topacio assured that the statements they made at the ISAFP were videotaped and done in the presence of Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief Persida Acosta, the National Bureau of Investigation and their private lawyers.

“De Lima calls on the Commission on Human Rights to check on my clients. 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,” he urged.

“I will even accompany her to their detention facility, where we will all feel safe with her, since there are no kubols there,” he added. (JEFFREY G. DAMICOG)