DOJ chief orders relief of Bilibid execs

Aie Balagtas See (The Philippine Star) - November 20, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima ordered yesterday the relief of top officials of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City following the grenade explosion that rocked the NBP maximum security compound last Friday.

After personally inspecting the national penitentiary, De Lima announced she was placing NBP Superintendent Ramon Reyes on floating status effective immediately.

Also ordered relieved were the heads of the three compounds in NBP – Superintendents Roberto Rabo, Dante Cruz and Gerardo Aro.

“Because of the successive incidents like this, we can fairly say that some of them – if not most of them – had been compromised already,” she told reporters at a press conference.

Upon orders of De Lima, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) conducted a raid inside the maximum security compound and again confiscated weapons and drug paraphernalia despite earlier persistent orders to cleanse the NBP of contraband.

An irked justice chief pointed out how the officials failed to stamp out contraband in NBP, especially cell phones and illicit weapons like grenades.

“Perhaps they are cowed to undertake aggressive steps to completely eradicate these contrabands, especially drug problem from within NBP. We are talking here about drugs, about moneyed and powerful inmates who can afford to compromise certain officials,” she stressed.

De Lima said old jail guards will be replaced by about 140 to 170 new recruits in hopes that they posses the “right values and attitude.”

She said that investigators have taken a suspect from the Samar Leyte gang and two witnesses from Batang City Jail under custody, but she wants to be sure that they are the right persons to be investigated before she can divulge their names.

“What we suspect is the root cause of the grenade blast is the rivalry between and among the gangs who are fighting to protect moneyed drug lords so they can milk them,” De Lima said, adding that drugs lords have remained the “largest problem in NBP.”


‘Gangs remain powerful’

Gangs also continue to exercise power in NBP, which is supposedly a rehabilitation center for criminals.

De Lima said the gang leaders are so powerful that they can afford to compromise jail employees and serve as protectors of the drug lords.

In line with this, the secretary said she instructed NBP officials to “immediately” transfer all the gang leaders in “well equipped colonies” or in medium security compound.

Pending a probe on their possible administrative and criminal liabilities, the NBP officials were temporarily replaced by junior officers.

At least six inmates were injured when another prisoner whose identity was not disclosed threw a grenade toward a group of inmates doing regular jogging exercise at around 5:15 a.m. in Building 11 at the maximum security facility last Friday.

De Lima confirmed that the incident was possibly triggered by grudges between two gangs.

A CCTV footage of the attack showed the suspect positioned meters away from a group of seven inmates who were jogging at the time, before the grenade was thrown.

Two witnesses have surfaced during the investigation and are now cooperating with the NBI.

However, various sectors are baffled how an explosive device could be smuggled inside the supposedly most tightly guarded prison facility in the country.

NBP sources said that smuggling of explosives was “not new.” At least five grenade blast incidents had shaken the NBP maximim security compound, where convicted life-termers are detained.

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