Magdalo representative: De Lima innocent, inmates forced to testify

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Although House Deputy Speakers Fred Castro and Gwen Garcia say there's "probable cause" against Senator Leila De Lima, one of their colleagues in the House disagrees.

"Itong mga nag-testify ay talagang napilitan po ang mga ito," Gary Alejano, Magdalo Party-list Representative, said in an exclusive interview on CNN Philippines' Balitaan.

[Translation: These people who testified were really under duress.]

As for De Lima, he said, "She is innocent."

His statement follows the fourth House Justice Committee hearing on the alleged New Bilibid Prison (NBP) drug trade. After repeated summons to the Congress, high profile convict Jaybee Sebastian finally joined the roster of witnesses that accused De Lima of collecting drug money.

Related: Jaybee Sebastian denies he's a gov't asset, admits funding De Lima campaign with drug money

Alejano said that the testimonies had inconsistencies, but the bottom line is to "destroy De Lima's credibility" and "paint that all those involved were her boyfriends."

This follows Sebastian's testimony that former aide Joenel Sanchez was romantically involved with De Lima, which Sanchez denied. Sanchez also spoke of the alleged relationship between De Lima and her former driver Ronnie Dayan.

But for Alejano, witnesses from inside NBP do not have credibility. He said that although parts of the testimonies may have been true, inconsistencies remain in how the personalities are connected.

He added that they had nothing to lose by lying, which could land them a maximum of six months in jail, when they already had life or double life sentences.

"Tinanong ko po sila… 'Kaya ba ng (Bureau of Corrections) Chief na ipitin ka?' 'Kaya.' 'Ang Secretary ba ng DOJ, kaya bang ipitin ka?' Sabi, 'Mas lalo na ser,'" he said. "So ibig sabihin, kontrolado na sila ng kanilang mga guwardiya o ng DOJ."

[Translation: I asked them… 'Is the (Bureau of Corrections) Chief capable of controlling you?' 'Yes.' 'Is the DOJ Secretary capable of controlling you?' (The witness) said, 'Especially her, sir.' That means that the guards and DOJ still control them.]

Alejano said that he did not believe Sebastian was willing to testify from the beginning.

"Actually, matigas ang ulo niyan. Kahit na si DOJ Secretary ay nagsabi na matigas ang ulo niyan, ayaw mag-cooperate. Ibig sabihin, mag-cooperate sa gusto nila," said Alejano. "And it was lately na pumayag po si Jaybee dahil [may] threats sa buhay niya, sa pamilya niya, at pinepressure na siya ng pamilya niya, bumigay na. Anyway, si De Lima lang naman ang habol."

[Translation: Actually, he's hard-headed. Even the DOJ Secretary said he's hard-headed and doesn't cooperate. That means, cooperate with them (DOJ). And it's only lately that Jaybee agreed, following the threats to his life, to his family, and his family has been pressuring him, so he gave in. Anyway, it's De Lima they're after.]

Related: House Deputy Speakers: There's 'probable cause' against De Lima

Alejano is not the only one in the House who feels this way. Albay Representative Edcel Lagman called the probe "a comedy of errors."

"I did not participate (in it) because it's garbage," said Caloocan Representative Egay Erice. "It's not a hearing. (It's a) propaganda tool to cover up for the investigation on the extrajudicial killings."

Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat also believes the probe is a publicity stunt.

"Para magka-chilling effect sa kritiko," he said. "Ito (ang) mangyayari sa iyo."

[Translation: To give a chilling effect to critics — this will happen to you.]

Alejano said that he hopes the hearings will end in productive legislation, but he also noted that a motion for the modernization of the NBP had already been filed before.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.