MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Former senator Jamby Madrigal on Friday, February 24, demanded an apology from Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II for his "baseless, malicious" allegation that she tried to bribe high-profile inmates to recant their testimonies against Senator Leila de Lima.
"One has to wonder what is worse: to believe fantasies or to make accusations on the basis of such fuzzy logic. In either case, he owes me an apology. Otherwise I may have to seek legal action to clear my family's good name," said Madrigal.
She said that contrary to Aguirre's claim, she is not related to Lalaine Madrigal Martinez, who was supposed to have tried to facilitate the bribe. Martinez is the wife of convicted kidnapper Noel Martinez.
"Hindi ko siya kilala at lalong hindi totoong kinausap ko siya [Martinez] para mag-alok ng anuman. 'Kuryente' ang impormasyong 'pinagkakalat ni Aguirre," Madrigal said.
(I don't know her and it's not true that I spoke with her to offer anything. The information Aguirre is peddling is a "bum steer.")
Madrigal said Aguirre's accusation is "without foundation in fact or logic" and a "great disservice" to the Duterte administration.
"I hope Secretary Aguirre isn't losing his marbles. The head of the Department of Justice is supposed to be ensuring not just the rule of law, but sobriety in its application. He is not supposed to be in the business of peddling conspiracy theories, much less engaging in character assassination," she said.
On Thursday, February 23, Aguirre alleged that two politicians from the once ruling Liberal Party (LP) – a former senator and an incumbent congressman – supposedly offered P100 million to the NBP convicts who said during a House probe that De Lima allowed the proliferation of drugs at the national penitentiary when she was still justice secretary. (READ: The public trial of Leila de Lima)
Aguirre then identified them as Madrigal and Biñan City Representative Marlyn Alonte in a dzMM interview on Friday. Alonte, who is now a member of ruling party Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), also denied the allegation.
An arrest warrant has already been served against De Lima, who is facing multiple drug charges. The fiercest critic of President Rodrigo Duterte has already surrendered to the police. (READ: Emotional De Lima vows to fight charges, seeks prayers for safety in jail)
Alonte: Duterte is my party mate
File photo from Alonte's Facebook page
In an interview on dzMM on Friday, Alonte said: "Okay, unang-una po, wala akong kakilala sa kahit sinong inmates na sinasabi nila. Ikalawa ho, 'di ako tumawag at 'di ako nakisali sa ganyang gawain."
(Okay, first of all, I do not know any of the inmates they are referring to. Secondly, I neither made the call nor am I involved in that kind of activity.)
Alonte ran for congresswoman as a member of the LP but later jumped to Duterte’s PDP-Laban.
While she was surprised that her name was involved, Alonte said she is willing to face Aguirre and even be subjected to a lie detector test.
"Ako po ay under sa leadership ni President Duterte. Ako po ay tumatayo bilang isang PDP-Laban member. 'Di ko po sisirain ang pangalan ng partido," she said.
(I am under the leadership of President Duterte. I am standing as a PDP-Laban member. I will not destroy the name of the party.)
The congresswoman added that she does not know Madrigal personally.
Alonte plans to reach out to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who is also PDP-Laban secretary-general.
She is currently facing a plunder complaint over the alleged overpriced purchase of land to be used for Biñan's public cemetery.
Alvarez said in a dzMM interview on Friday that he would be looking into the allegations against Alonte.
"Kinakailangan talaga nating alamin iyan, ang puno't-dulo niyan, dahil makikita natin 'yung pattern doon sa panggugulo ng kasalukuyang gobyerno (We need to get to the bottom of this because we can see a pattern in destroying the current government)," said Alvarez.
He cited the retraction of SPO3 Arturo "Arthur" Lascañas of his denial on the involvement of Duterte in the so-called Davao Death Squad when the latter was still Davao City mayor.
"Unang-una, involved nga din daw sa allegations 'yung si Congresswoman Len Alonte-Naguiat, ito ay relative noong dating Pagcor (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation) chairman yata. So alamin natin iyan, kasi malaki ang pera na naglalaro dito. Talagang ginagastahan nila ito just to…'yung i-destabilize 'yung gobyerno natin," said Alvarez.
(First of all, Congresswoman Len Alonte-Naguiat is a relative of the former Pagcor chairman, I think. So we will look into this because huge sums of money are involved here. They really are spending money just to destabilize the government.)
Former Pagcor chairperson Cristino Naguiat Jr is the cousin of Naguiat's father-in-law.