Solicitor General Jose Calida released a photo of Senator Leila de Lima with New Bilibid prisoner Jaybee Sebastian. Sebastian is a maximum security inmate suspected of running a drug trade in the said prison.
However, de Lima issued a statement denying providing protection to any criminal through her official Facebook page.
“I denounce in the highest possible terms this latest demolition job linking me to maximum security inmate Jaybee Sebastian or to any other convicted or suspected drug lord or operator now or in the past,” de Lima said.
“I categorically deny any insinuation of me extending any protection or accommodation to any criminal. My personal and professional records would belie all accusations hurled against me which are obviously intended to malign my good name and reputation and to undermine the performance of my lawful duties as a Senator,” she added.
de Lima also addressed Calida in her statement, saying that as a government official with his positions before, he is well-versed in the activities of officials like them.
“Atty. Jose Calida, who once served as Justice Undersecretary and Acting Secretary during the Arroyo administration, should have known better that public servants like us conduct meetings, and/or attend events or activities with all kinds of people in pursuance of official duties, similar to the much publicized meeting or encounter between PNP Director General Ronald de la Rosa and several convicts like Herbert Colangco, Peter Co, and Jaybee Sebastian,” de Lima said.
The senator explained the event behind the picture that was taken of her in the National Bilibid Prison.
“When I was Justice Secretary, I had attended several Management Committee (ManCom) meetings of the Department of Justice (DOJ), including one hosted by Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) then headed by BuCor Director Gaudencio Pangilinan,” de Lima said.
She was not the only government official present at the event, though, as per her statement.
“That one meeting which was covered by the media at the premises of the National Bilibid Prison was also attended by other top officials of the DOJ, including the heads of attached agencies and BuCor officials. At the sideline of the event, ManCom members mingled with some inmates during certain activities on the same day as part of the reformatory program of BuCor. It is most likely where the photograph was taken and is now being shown by Calida out of context,” she said.
De Lima did not forget to insert a reminder for Calida.
“May I suggest for Calida to stop his fixation on Throwback Thursday photos of me, and instead just start doing his real job of reading the 501-page decision on the West Philippine Sea case?” she said in her statement.
When the United Nations’ Permanent Court of Arbitration decided in favor of the Philippines regarding the arbitration case against China over the West Philippine Sea on July 12, Malacanang said that they were waiting for the Solicitor General’s office to give them an interpretation of the ruling.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar sent a text message to the media, saying, “We shall wait for SolGen’s interpretation of the ruling.”
De Lima also issued a warning to those who try to connect her to the illegal drug trade, telling them that she will continue with her work as a Senator despite the attacks against her.
“Meanwhile, I warn those who are attempting to implicate me to any illegal activity, and much less to illegal drugs which I have always fought: You will be frustrated. While I have been patient with all the attacks, I will never be intimidated. Rather, I will remain steadfast in fulfilling my sworn duty as Senator to uphold the Constitution and human rights,” she said.