Witness: We were forced to sell drugs to fund De Lima campaign

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — A convicted kidnapper on Wednesday said his gang at the New Bilibid Prison was forced to sell drugs to fund the senatorial bid of then Justice Secretary Leila De Lima in the May 2016 elections.

Speaking at the second day of the House probe on the alleged illegal drug operations at the NBP, Noel Martinez said detained drug lord Jaybee Sebastian, an alleged financier of De Lima, called him into his office February 2013, asking him to provide a huge amount of money to fund De Lima's campaign.

"Dahil dito, sinabi ni Jaybee sa akin na kailangan ma-centralize ang bentahan ng droga sa Bilibid at ang mga pinuno ng bawat grupo o mga kumander ang kailangang mag-asikaso nito bilang tulong," he said.

[Translation: Because of this, Jaybee said the sale of drugs at Bilibid needs to be centralized and the leader or commander of every group needs to take charge and help.]

This, in exchange for the gang's protection and special treatment, Martinez said.

Martinez led the Genuine Ilocano Group (GIG) with 2,200 members.

"Isa sa mga patakaran na aming napagkasunduan at mahigpit na ipinatutupad sa aming hanay ay ang pagbabawal sa paggamit, pagbebenta o pagkakaroon ng kahit na anong transaksyon na may kinalaman sa droga o ipinagbabawal na gamut," Martinez said.

[Translation: One of our rules that we strictly implement is prohibiting the use, sale or any involvement with illegal drugs.]

But Martinez said out of utang na loob or debt of gratitude to Sebastian, he offered to look for pushers outside Bilibid instead. He was then tasked to monitor his referrals' remittances.

Martinez' gang asked help from Sebastian in 2012 for the construction of a multi-purpose building inside Bilibid.

"Ang utang na loob na iyon ay isa sa magpapagulo sa aking buhay kinalaunan (That debt of gratitude eventually caused me trouble)," he said.

Still, Martinez said he was forced by Sebastian several times to sell drugs inside Bilibid. "Dahil mas malakas daw ang kita kung dito sa loob ng Bilibid ang bentahan (There's bigger money if sales are done inside Bilibid)" he added.

But the GIG turned down Sebastian's order anew.

A certain "Col. Elly" also forced the GIG to provide P500,000 to former Bureau of Corrections Director Franklin Bucayo.

They heeded the order for fear of their lives.

The GIG was then asked to give money weekly.

Martinez recalled that prison authorities conducted a raid on December 2014, and as a consequence, he and 18 other co-detainees called as Bilibid 19 were transferred to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) jail. This was publicized as part of De Lima's intensified efforts to cleanse Bilibid.

"Ako po ay humihingi ng inyong proteksyon at tulong upang maihiwalay dito sa Building 14 para sa aking kaligtasan," Martinez said.

[Translation: I am asking for protection and help so I can be placed away from Building 14 for my safety.]

Building 14 is a high-security facility used to house high-profile inmates linked to the drug trade.

Lives under threat

Another inmate witness, Jaime Patcho, the "commander" of a group called "Batman" said he was also approached by Sebastian in January 2015 asking for his help to fund De Lima's campaign.

Sebastian told him not to worry because the "administration is with De Lima," Patcho recalled.

He said he communicated with Sebastian through a cellphone.

"Kaya ako nagsalita tungkol sa mga bagay na ito ay bilang tanda ng buong suporta kay Chief PNP Ronaldo "Bato" Dela Rosa sa kampanya laban sa illegal na droga na sana matuldukan na ito," Patcho said.

[Translation: "The reason I spoke up is to support Chief PNP Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa in the campaign against illegal drugs, hoping it will be put to end."]

Both Martinez and Patcho said they feared for their lives, as well as their families' because those opposing Sebastian were either killed, framed up, or thrown to a far-away penal colony.

Whatever he says becomes law, Patcho said.

This was also mentioned by several other witnesses, supported by a video showing Sebastian's strong influence inside Bilibid during Tuesday's hearing.

House probe Day 1: 'De Lima allowed entry of drugs, contraband in Bilibid for money'

Both also said they saw De Lima visiting Sebastian's kubol (detention shed) during her tenure as Justice secretary.

De Lima earlier dismissed the claims of "false witnesses" made to speak against her in the probe and accused the Special Action Force (SAF) personnel of intimidating and possibly torturing Bilibid prisoners to fabricate testimonies against her.

Read: De Lima willing to be shot if drug links proven