By Rigoberto D. Tiglao - October 14, 2016
Senator Leila de Lima claims that the accusations against her – that she protected the drug-lords in Bilibid National Prison and their criminal activities there, in exchange for tens of millions of pesos when she was justice secretary in the past Administration – are merely part of her political persecution. She alleges that her persecution is President Duterte’s retaliation for her opposition to the many extrajudicial killings that she associates with his war against illegal drugs.
She even played the victimized woman card when her intimate relationship with her security aide-cum-driver — who, however, has been accused of being her bagman, or one of them — was brought up: “Babae ako, hindi ako nahihiya sa aking pagkababae,” she said.
These are totally rubbish, de Lima’s shameful attempts at concealing her crime.
Why do I say so?
Because as early as more than three years ago, such accusations were already swirling around her, when nobody in his wildest dream (or nightmare) thought that the “Dirty Harry” Davao City mayor would run for President, win and then launch a bloody war against the illegal-drug criminals. It was also at this time when portions of the alleged video of her having sex with her security-turned-lover surfaced.
How could she claim Duterte hatched a conspiracy to hurl these accusations against her?
Proof of such accusations against de Lima that started three years ago is the column I wrote back on Dec. 21, 2014, accessible through this link: www.manilatimes.net/p10-million-per-month-rental/150545/
The article referred to statements that she has known about the corruption in Bilibid since 2012. That she didn’t do anything about it could only be an indication that she was already conniving with the drug lords inside the prison at that time. Neither de Lima nor any other government official contested the article.
President Aquino 3rd did not order, covertly or otherwise, an investigation into the accusations. What does that tell us? I suspect he knew about it and that his inner circle may have told him that the drug lords’ humongous earnings at Bilibid could even help fund the Liberal Party’s campaign kitty for the 2016 elections.
The column was entitled “P10 million per month ‘rental’?” which I republish en toto as follows:
December 21, 2014. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima was informed a year ago by Philippine National Police officers that organized-crime lords were living luxury lifestyles inside Bilibid Prison, with the drug kingpins even continuing their drug operations from there.
Yet de Lima had dragged her foot for months and refused – until last week – to raid the prison so as to stop those scandalous operations at Bilibid. Why?
“We were very angry why de Lima was not doing anything,” a police officer said. “We risk our lives in operations, police officers were killed by these criminals, we refuse millions of pesos in bribes, only to find out that the criminals we sent to jail are living in luxury in Bilibid and are even allowed to get out for entertainment,” he said.
In a radio interview, jueteng whistle-blower Sandra Cam also disclosed that her group had brought an ex-jail guard Kabungsuan Makilala to de Lima, who told her under oath all the corruption at Bilibid back in 2012. De Lima, though, refused to take him into the department’s witness protection program and refused to believe his testimony.
“One informant told us about two-dozen gang leaders there, especially the drug lords,” the police officer said, “contribute to pay P10 million monthly, their ‘rent’ to officials in charge of Bilibid—from the guards to officials at the Justice Department level—so they would be allowed to do as they please inside Bilibid.”
What has recently been exposed in the media, the officer claimed, is only the tip of the iceberg, as the convicts were tipped a week before that there would be such a raid. “So only those who were so hard-headed that they didn’t believe in the warning are in trouble now,” the officer claimed.
De Lima’s raiding party contained not a single PNP personnel. She had not informed even the top leadership of the PNP, even Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, about the raid.
The officer claimed that President Aquino seemed to have totally trusted de Lima that his group’s efforts to push her to act through media exposés accomplished nothing. Throughout this year, there have, indeed, been occasional reports in newspapers and television about Bilibid being run by drug lords.
Chief Inspector Roque Merdegia Jr, of the PNP’s Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force, was bold enough in June 2014 —six months ago —to publicly ask the justice department to investigate the VIP treatment of the drug lords who had been arrested by the task force.
Merdegia reported at that time that his task force had conducted an operation inside Bilibid and discovered that some high-profile convicts were staying in air-conditioned rooms with their own flat screen television and hot and cold shower. Merdegia also claimed that top drug lords were even allowed to go to top-of-the-line hospitals for “check-ups” and whenever they feel they have to consult with their doctors.
The Justice Department ordered a probe, which, however, investigated solely why certain convicts were allowed to leave prison to go to their chosen hospitals, and even to visit their homes.
It is astonishing how in the face of this national embarrassment, this total failure of government (how could drug lords continue their criminal operations in a jail, and even have high-powered assault rifles?), those accountable for it aren’t immediately suspended.
These are Justice Secretary de Lima, who supervises the Bureau of Corrections, its director Franklin Bucayu, his deputy in charge of prisons, Celso Bravo, and the New Bilibid warden Roberto Rabo.
They should be immediately suspended, all their files and computers confiscated as these may contain evidence of their collusion with the convicts. Their bank accounts must be investigated by the Anti Money Laundering Council to determine if they received suspicious funds.
If there is a topic the Senate should be investigating in aid of legislation, it is the penal system. On one level, it has become the center of drug syndicates and a luxury resort, and on another it is hell for most of its occupants.
I’m astonished why President Aquino seems nonchalant about the scandal that is the “Bilibid Resort,” telling de Lima that it’s only the “high powered guns that worry him.”
Our penal system under Aquino has given an entirely new meaning to South African legend Nelson Mandela’s famous quote: “It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails.”