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BuCor ordered to probe NBP inmates’ privileges

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II yesterday ordered the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to investigate the alleged special privileges accorded to several high-profile inmates who implicated Sen. Leila de Lima in the illegal drug trade. File photo

MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II yesterday ordered the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to investigate the alleged special privileges accorded to several high-profile inmates who implicated Sen. Leila de Lima in the illegal drug trade.

While he denied insinuations of De Lima that he approved such privileges to convicted robber Herbert Colanggo and seven other inmates currently jailed at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Custodial and Detention Center at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, Aguirre has decided to look into the matter.

“You are hereby directed to investigate and verify such report. If so warranted by your investigation, any special privileges granted to these inmates, be it in the form of special favors, improvements and equipment in violation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Department of National Defense (DND) and Department of Justice (DOJ), shall be immediately confiscated or dismantled,” Aguirre said in his one-page memorandum to BuCor chief Benjamin de los Santos.

De Lima claimed she has “indisputable information” that Aguirre restored the privileges of the inmates who testified against her in the House of Representatives’ inquiry on the narcotics trade.

She said among these privileges were the use of cellular phones and other electronic gadgets, television, air-conditioning units and even internet access.

Aguirre has again denied the allegation.

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“I absolutely deny it. I made no such order. However, allow me to point out that Senator De Lima used the term ‘restores,’ it only means that she is admitting that such privileges that she claims were restored were existing during her time as secretary of justice,” he stressed.

The DOJ chief believes that the senator “must be referring to her stint as secretary of justice when such privileges abounded and were tolerated in the NBP (New Bilibid Prison).”

“She must have a lot of spare time to reminisce about her past. You can only reminisce about factual things, things that actually happened,” he added.

Aguirre was also unfazed by the threat of De Lima that she would divulge the evidence in her possession as proof of Aguirre’s hand in the special treatment for Colanggo and other inmates.

“If there’s evidence that I actually made such an order the accuser should be the one to bring it forward,” he stressed.

Earlier reports cited a document supposedly showing Aguirre’s approval of the privileges for inmates. The report from the BuCor legal office revealed the discussion during a meeting between the AFP, Philippine National Police (PNP) and BuCor where it was mentioned that the special treatment on inmates has been revived.  

PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa will also investigate the alleged special treatment of detainees being held inside the custodial center of Camp Aguinaldo.

Dela Rosa and AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Año stressed yesterday that management of the facility falls under the jurisdiction of the BuCor.

The PNP will only investigate to determine if Special Action Force (SAF) troopers have anything to do with the alleged irregularities within the detention facility.

He said that the SAF’s main mission is to just secure the perimeter and ensure that no one escapes, “but as to the management of that facility, we believe that’s a BuCor mandate.”  – With Michael Punongbayan, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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