‘I’m not surprised’: De Lima says of Sebastian’s guilty plea for fear for his life

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima is not surprised at all that drug convict Jaybee Sebastian has pleaded guilty to one count of illegal drug trade in her bogus cases pending before the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC).

De Lima said she believes that Sebastian, her co-accused in the trumped-up drug charge lodged before Muntinlupa City RTC Branch 206, has been pressured by Duterte’s operators to falsely testify against her in exchange for his and his family’s safety.

“Not surprisingly, Jaybee Sebastian pleaded guilty due to threats to his life and that of his family. Let’s not forget that Sebastian’s life was previously placed in danger because he initially refused to testify against me. Kailangan niyang gawin ‘yan dahil buhay niya mismo ang nakasalalay diyan,” she said.

Sebastian is accused alongside De Lima in Criminal Case No. 17-167 being handled by Muntinlupa City RTC Branch 206. The case originated from the complaint filed by two disgruntled National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Officers who were not re-appointed to their desired positions during the term of the Senator as justice secretary.

Under the case, De Lima is accused of conspiring with Sebastian, former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Jesus Bucayu, Bucayu’s former staff Wilfredo Elli, De Lima’s former security aides Ronnie Dayan and Joenel Sanchez, and a certain Jad de Vera – to trade drugs inside the New Bilibid Prison to allegedly raise funds for her 2016 senatorial bid.

Last Sept. 4, Sebastian, who is an alleged government asset during the time of De Lima as Justice Secretary and the only drug convict retained in the charges, entered a guilty plea after he was arraigned for his case before Muntinlupa RTC Branch 206. The arraignment took place inside the National Bilibid Prison.

Sebastian alleged he conspired with De Lima and five others to trade drugs inside the NBP. Previously, in Sept. 28, 2016, however, Sebastian sustained multiple puncture wounds in a riot at the New Bilibid Prison, in Muntinlupa City.

Incidentally, the violent incident happened days after then Justice Secretary Aguirre said that Sebastian was suddenly unwilling to testify about De Lima’s alleged ties to the so-called Bilibid drug trade.

Aside from Sebastian, two others were left wounded while drug convict Tony Co was killed during the said stabbing incident at the national penitentiary.

De Lima said Sebastian has nothing to lose with his admission of guilt, noting that “since he is already convicted of another crime, Sebastian’s admission of his guilt in relation to the drug charge will have no effect in him. The fear now is if he will live – if he recants.”

De Lima’s legal counsel, Atty. Filibon Tacardon, said while there was an admission of guilt, the prosecutors still need to provide evidence of Sebastian’s guilt under the rules of Court.

“The crime alleged involves the penalty of Reclusion Perpetua (40 years) and the Prosecution is yet to–and is required to– provide the pieces of evidence needed to prove Sebastian’s guilt,” he said.

De Lima, who has always maintained her innocence from all the politically-motivated trumped-up illegal drug trading charges levelled against her, is the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime.

In both Muntinlupa City RTC Branches 205 and 206 where she is facing charges, the respective Courts have entered a “not guilty” plea for the former justice secretary, pursuant to the Rules of Court, after she defied the court’s jurisdiction over her, and refused to acknowledge the legitimacy or validity of the charges as averred in the Information.

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