VIP treatment for witnesses vs Leila bared
A confidential Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) document has shown that Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II ordered the grant of special privileges to high-profile convicts held at the military custodial center in Camp Aguinaldo as a reward for testifying to the alleged drug links of Sen. Leila de Lima.
The Dec. 9, 2016, report of Alvin Herrera Lim, chief of the BuCor legal office, to BuCor Director General Benjamin de los Santos referred to a conference among lawyers for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and the BuCor last Dec. 2.
Lim said in his report that the military sought to enforce rules under the custodial arrangement for the convicts after an investigation showed that the convicts, including those who testified against De Lima in a House drug inquiry last year, had been allowed special privileges.
Eight high-profile convicts originally held at New Bilibid Prison were transferred to the military custodial center last September, just before they faced the House justice committee that investigated the illegal drug trade inside Bilibid.
Among the inmates was robbery convict Herbert Colanggo, who was earlier busted for maintaining a luxury villa inside the national penitentiary.
The document said the military investigation found that the convicts detained at the custodial center “continue to enjoy lavish lifestyles, e.g. use of electronic gadgets, smart television sets, air-conditioning units, internet, cellular phones.”
“When pressed for comment, elements of both the PNP and BuCor [said they were] just following the expressed instruction of [Justice Secretary] Vitaliano Aguirre II to allow the entry of the above-enumerated gadgets in return for the testimony they gave during the congressional inquiry [into] the proliferation of drugs inside New Bilibid Prison,” the document said.
De Lima told a news conference on Wednesday that she had “indisputable,” “A1” information that Aguirre had “restored” the special privileges of the inmates in exchange for their testimony.
De Lima said she feared that access to cell phones and the internet would enable the convicts to resume vending drugs, the very crime they had been busted for, from their cells.
She said she made the disclosure to show how the Duterte administration was betraying its own campaign against drugs, granting favors to big-time dealers while exterminating the small ones.
“[T]hey are the worst kind of hypocrites,” De Lima said, referring to the administration. “[In the] war on drugs, they are killing the small ones while spoiling the big fish just because they testified against me. That’s the quid pro quo.”
De Lima said Aguirre, one of Mr. Duterte’s allies accusing her of involvement in the drug trade, could be held liable for various offenses for granting special privileges to the convicts.
De los Santos forwarded the report to Aguirre’s office on Dec. 16.
Aguirre confirmed on Wednesday that he had received the report, but denied ordering the grant of special privileges to the convicts.
“I absolutely deny it. I made no such order,” he said in a statement.
“However, allow me to point out that Senator De Lima used the term ‘restore.’ [I]t only means that she is admitting that such privileges that she claims were restored were existing during her time as secretary of justice,” he added.
He said De Lima was familiar with the special privileges for the convicts because she allowed them during her tenure at the justice department.
Aguirre ordered the BuCor’s De los Santos to verify the report and immediately withdraw the convicts’ privileges if the report was found true.—WITH A REPORT FROM GIL C. CABACUNGAN
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