Bilibid VIPs in AFP custody lose perks
One phone, one television, no air-conditioner.
This was all that was left after a joint team from the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and Special Action Force conducted clearing operations at the Camp Aguinaldo detention facility where eight high-profile inmates, who earlier testified against Sen. Leila de Lima in congressional hearings on the illegal drug trade inside New Bilibid Prison (NBP), reportedly enjoyed perks.
BuCor director Benjamin de los Santos also ordered the relief of 20 personnel pending a review of the regulations on how the inmates, including convicted drug lords, should be treated outside the national penitentiary. The inmates are being held at the custodial center of Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP).
“(The) entire BuCor guard complement has been reassigned to NBP pending investigation to determine culpability,” De los Santos said.
De los Santos said air-conditioning units were dismantled at the center and only one phone was left installed in the reception area, where only one TV set was allowed. The phone calls are to be monitored and TV viewing time will be restricted.
The rooms used by the inmates were searched “but (they) were not in possession of personal cell-phone units,” he added.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II also suspended BuCor legal chief Alvin Lim.
It was Lim who wrote a Dec. 9, 2016, memo to De los Santos to report that an AFP investigation had found that “the high-profile inmates detained in the AFP Custodial and Detention Center continue to enjoy lavish lifestyles, e.g. use of electronic gadgets, smart television sets, air-conditioning units, internet, cellular phones.”
In the memo, Lim said police and BuCor personnel claimed that they allowed the inmates to have phones, Wi-fi access, TV and air-conditioners based on instructions from Aguirre.
But Aguirre denied that he approved such perks for the inmates and accused Lim of leaking the memo because he supposedly had an axe to grind against the justice secretary.
Aguirre said Lim was earlier found guilty in an administrative case and was facing another for grave misconduct. Lim would also face sanctions for illegal law practice in Lucena City, he added.
Lim could face additional charges for releasing the confidential memo to De los Santos. “(T)he memo is still under process and if that is released prematurely, there will be criminal liability,” said Aguirre.
On Feb. 8, De Lima, a former justice secretary, accused Aguirre of granting perks to the NBP inmates as part of a deal for them to testify against her.
In a press conference, Aguirre dismissed as “hearsay” the proof being cited by De Lima and Lim that he had approved the perks. “As a former secretary of justice and a lawyer who is confident enough to call other lawyers mediocre, Senator De Lima should know that the above statement is an absolute hearsay.”
““You can say what you want about me but be sure you are backed by concrete and solid evidence and not her-say or hearsay.”
Aguirre said that while he did not expressly order the installation of air-conditioners, he could not blame BuCor guards for installing them to improve conditions at the detention center. He noted that at least two of the inmates nearly died as their blood pressure shot up due to the heat.