RTC orders transfer of convict-witnesses in De Lima case

RTC orders transfer of convict-witnesses in De Lima case

THE MUNTINLUPA Regional Trial Court (RTC) ordered the transfer of custody of the seven convicts who recanted their testimonies against former Senator Leila M. de Lima in her drug trafficking cases, citing safety and security concerns.

In a four-page order dated Dec. 13, shared to the media on Wednesday by Ms. De Lima’s team, Muntinlupa Presiding Judge Gener M. Gito ordered the transfer of the seven convicts from the Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm in Occidental Mindoro to the National Bilibid Prisons.

“[T]he prosecution posited that this is congruent with the appeal of accused Leila M. de Lima to transfer some PDL (persons deprived of liberty) witnesses for their safety and security,” the order read.

The seven inmates were German L. Agojo, Tomas D. Doniña, Jaime V. Patcho, Wu Tuan Yuan (alias “Peter Co”), Engelberto Durano, Jerry R. Pepino, and Hans Anton Tan. Apart from them, four convicts who are in “similarly and in a comparable position” were also transferred from Sablayan Prison to NBP, naming Herbert R. Colangco, Noel G. Martinez, Nonilo A. Arile, and Joel D. Capones.

In a manifestation, Ms. De Lima asked the court to order their transfer to the city jail in Muntinlupa last month.

In a three-page handwritten letter to Mr. Gito dated Nov. 17, the seven convicts urged the court to void their statements because they were coerced.

“We no longer desire to live our lives with the knowledge that we allowed ourselves to become pawns of instruments of injustice,” according to a copy of the letter provided by Ms. De Lima’s camp. “It will be our way of expressing our sincerest apologies to Senator de Lima and her family.” — Jomel R. Paguian