Aguirre orders return of high-profile inmates to Bilibid

MANILA-- Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre on Monday ordered the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to return to their original cells at the maximum security compound in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) the high-profile inmates who testified against detained Senator Leila De Lima on narcotics trade.

Aguirre issued Department Order No. 496 dated July 24, 2017 directing BuCor under officer-in-charge Rey Ragaas to immediately return the convicted drug lords from the medium security compound to their original detention facility.

"All inmates who were previously transfer from Building 14 to maximum security or medium security and from maximum security to medium security, NBP, BuCor since December 1, 2016. All subsequent transfer of the high-profile inmates and/or inmates convicted of offenses related to illegal drugs within the NBP shall be signed and approved by the Secretary of Justice," the order read.

In the same order, Aguirre also directed Ragaas to look into the transfer and submit an inventory of all inmates involved and the reasons for their transfer.

Aguirre gave the BuCor official ten days to submit a report to his office.

Among those transferred to the medium security compound - a less secured facility in NBP as compared to the maximum security compound - were inmates Vicente Sy, Jojo Baligad, and Peter Co, three of the key witnesses in the drug trafficking cases against De Lima.

Prior to their testimonies against De Lima in the House of Representatives inquiry on the illegal drugs trade inside NBP, eight convicted drug lords led by Herbert Colangco and Noel Martinez were transferred to the facility controlled by the Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP) in Camp Aguinaldo in September last year.

Some high-profile inmates who testified against De Lima - including drug lord Jaybee Sebastian - remained in the NBP.

Earlier, Aguirre said he learned the resurgence of the narcotics trade mostly involved new players other than the high-profile inmates who have claimed giving millions to De Lima.

"When we changed the BuCor personnel by SAF personnel on July 20, days after we assumed office, the SAF has destroyed or the syndicate there were responsible for distributing illegal drugs, 70 to 75 percent of illegal drugs throughout the Philippines. Of course, because of what we did in BuCor, then we're able to charge past officials of the BuCor and the Department of Justice, headed by Secretary de Lima, and filed a case, a nonbailable case, Aguirre said.

We have successfully curbed 75 percent of the illegal drug trade. If ever, the resurgence is about five to 10 percent only and we are going to clip it again, he added.

Aguirre said he considers the neutralization of drug syndicates inside the NBP as one of his biggest accomplishments during his one year term in office.

He noted that 70 to 75 percent of illegal drugs in the country were being trafficked from inside the NBP prior to the assumption of the Duterte administration.

Source: Philippines News Agency