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Watch cases of witness-inmates with pending bid for pardon - Alejano

Jaime Patcho (in brown jacket) attends the House hearing on the prison drugs trade. He is one of the inmates with a pending application for pardon/probation/executive clemency. FILE PHOTO
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MANILA - (UPDATE, 4:58 P.M) Were the testimonies of the inmates in the congressional inquiry part of a quid pro quo for their possible freedom?

Magdalo partylist Representative Gary Alejano said the public should watch the case of five of the 12 high-profile convicts who testified before the House Justice committee in its investigation on the thriving illegal drugs trade inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP). 

In a statement, Sen. Leila de Lima said there was nothing suspicious offhand about the applications, as these were made before they testified. Still, she said, she wouldn't be surprised if a quid pro quo would turn out to be behind the House hearing testimonies.

The five inmates – Engelberto Durano, Nonilo Arile, Jaime Patcho, Jojo Baligad and Vicente Sy – have pending applications for “pardon/probation/executive clemency.”

Alejano said the information was confirmed to him through a letter of the Board of Pardons and Parole in reply to his request last October 11. 

The other inmates who testified have no pending applications: Rodolfo Magleo, Herbert Colanggo, Noel Martinez, Froilan Trestiza, Hans Anton Tan, Jaybee Sebastian and Peter Co.

“This could be used as a reward for them; let's watch this. Five out of the 12 witnesses can be set free anytime,” Alejano said, speaking mostly in Filipino.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the application of the five inmates for parole/probation/executive clemency “will be enhanced by their cooperation when they gave their testimony.”

“It will be their possible ticket to freedom,” Lagman said.

Durano, a former police officer currently serving sentence at the New Bilibid Prison, testified that he handed P1.5 million to De Lima at the “office” of gang leader Jaybee Sebastian.

Durano said that earlier, he met Ronnie Dayan, De Lima’s driver and alleged lover, who sought money from him in exchange for “protection” for his “business” inside the penitentiary.

Durano said a certain Jeffrey Diaz or alias "Jaguar" and Dayan had several transactions involving deposits to Banco de Oro accounts. This reportedly amounted to P27.3 million.

Arile acknowledged being an "asset" of Jerry Valeroso of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) inside the penitentiary. As an asset, he said he found out how "untouchable" Jaybee Sebastian, a gang leader, was inside the penitentiary. He said Sebastian enjoyed the protection of De Lima.

Patcho, who was not able to testify but submitted an affidavit, had confirmed that inmates use mobile phones inside the penitentiary to carry out their transactions.

Baligad, a convicted murderer, said he remitted in several tranches a total of P3.8 million between January 2013 and April 2014 to the representatives of Rafael Ragos, then National Bureau of Investigation deputy director and to then Bureau of Corrections director Franklin Bucayu.

Sy, said he also gave P1.5 million to De Lima, through an aide of Ragos, to allow them to bring in appliances inside their cell.

De Lima: nothing suspicious offhand, but....

In a statement, de Lima noted that, "according to the copy of the letter from the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) on which the information seems to be based, it would appear that the applications of some, if not all, of the inmates listed therein, were already pending even before they testified before the House of Representatives.  With that context in mind, there doesn’t seem to be anything necessarily suspicious about their applications."

Still, she expressed hope "that the possible grant of these applications for executive clemency aren’t being peddled as a form of bayad-utang or incentive for testifying against me."

No one would be surprised,  the senator said, "if that should turn out to be the case. I certainly am not."

There is certainly nothing surprising "about executive clemency being exchanged for false testimonies against me," de Lima said, alluding to herself as "I, whom the President apparently hates with a vengeance?"

The “immunity" could even be just "the down-payment for telling lies under oath, and participating in such a kangaroo probe revolving around my alleged sex life and the absolutely absurd claim that I am involved in the drug trade,"   the senator pointed out.

Still, she expressed hope that wold not be the case, because "the Office of the President would have to be collectively insane to actually go through with it.  It can’t be that stupid.  It can’t possibly think that the Filipino people wouldn’t recognize a devil’s bargain or a meeting of criminal minds when they see it."