THE NEW Bilibid Prison (NBP)became sin city, with rampant illegal drug trade, alcoholic drinks and gambling, because then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima received millions in payoffs from gang leaders, witnesses claimed in an 11-hour congressional inquiry on Tuesday.
Rodolfo Magleo and Herbert Colanggo—both convicted criminals—testified before the justice committee of the House of Representatives on the illegal drug trade in the national penitentiary during the tenure of de Lima as Justice secretary in the previous Aquino administration.
In a departure from House rules, the committee allowed Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd to present and cross-examine the witnesses, which also included de Lima’s former subordinates at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
Magleo claimed that drug trafficking convicts Jaybee Sebastian and Colanggo ran sin-city type businesses, including prostitution, in the Bilibid.
Sebastian allegedly paid de Lima P10 million for the transfer of rival inmates, including Colanggo, to the NBI Detention Center, on top of a regular payoff to de Lima of P1 million monthly, Magleo alleged.
Colanggo said he began payoffs to de Lima in October 2013, totalling P70 million. “Since October 2013, [I gave] P46 million, P3 million monthly. That is on top of the P1 million that I give her (de Lima) every time I held a concert. In a year, I could have given her a P16-million share,” Colanggo said in Filipino.
Colanggo was earlier referred to as “Herbert Colangco,” but he said his real name was “Herbert Colanggo.”
The money was for PR (public relations) payola for de Lima so he could continue living in luxury inside the Muntinlupa prison, he said.
“That’s why I was able to smuggle 300 boxes of beer in can, concert equipment, golf cart … the money was collected by Sir Joenel, on the instructions of Ronnie Dayan,” Colangco said.
“Sir Joenel” is Joenel Sanchez, one of de Lima’s aides, said Colanggo, while Dayan was de Lima’s bodyguard.
Last month, President Rodrigo Duterte accused de Lima, a leading critic of his deadly war on illegal drugs, of having an affair with Dayan and tolerating the drug trade at the Bilibid. The President’s claims led to Tuesday’s House inquiry.
Magleo claimed to be a confidante of Sebastian, said to be the leader of the “Commando” gang, who did not testify in the House inquiry. Aguirre, who assembled the group of witnesses against de Lima, earlier said Sebastian refused to testify.
Magleo said Sebastian ordered shabu from drug suppliers Peter Co, Ben Marcelo, Yong Yin, Alex Chen, and Jackson Li.
“Co once told me that his collectibles reached P1 billion for one month alone. There were also a lot of guns; 80 percent of inmates had cellphones and other gadgets. The maximum security compound has been branded as Little Las Vegas and Wild, Wild West,” Magleo said in Filipino.
“Sebastian told me that he has been paying de Lima a huge amount of money so he can do whatever he wants,” Magleo added.
In the Bilibid, the drug trade involved shabu, marijuana, and “ecstasy” pills, he said. There was also gambling such as online betting on cockfights, dice, cards, cara y cruz and billiards; prostitution; and even concerts of entertainers including the Mocha Girls of self-proclaimed “die-hard Duterte supporter” Mocha Uson, Rufa Mae Quinto, Ethel Booba, Sharon Cuneta and Freddie Aguilar.
Before Aguirre began his cross-examination, committee members watched a Discovery Channel documentary on Bilibid gangsters, which featured Sebastian.
Sebastian was bragging of his gang-leader status, contacts with top officials such as de Lima, and running his own “TV network.”
“My weapon is this. Computer, media, camera. We have our own TV network. I think it is safe to claim that this is the first and ever network inside the Maximum Security Facility,” he says in the documentary.
“It’s like a normal TV network wherein you have a local news network, late night show, noontime show, comedy, drama.”
The video was marked as part of the evidence against de Lima.
Sebastian and de Lima were apparently close, as the latter at one time went alone to the former’s “kubol” or hut, and stayed there for two or three hours, Magleo claimed.
Axes to grind
Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, a former Marine captain, however, was quick to cast doubt on the convicts.
Alejano claimed the witnesses all had axes to grind against de Lima and Sebastian whom the government had used as a mole to rid the Bilibid of drug syndicates.
Alejano claimed to have received intelligence reports that the witnesses were arm-twisted to malign the de Lima. “They are really under duress,” Alejano added.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman slammed the House justice panel led by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Rey Umali for letting Aguirre ask questions to the witnesses, in supposed violation of House rules.
“Under the House rules, only the members of the committee can ask questions [to witnesses]. What happened today was a violation of our rules. Whether he (Aguirre) was authorized to do it or not, it is a violation of our rules,” Lagman told reporters.
“Let’s call a spade a spade. This is an inquiry to link [de Lima]to the drug trade. This is for a partisan agenda,” Lagman added.
De Lima urged to quit
But for House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte, Aguirre had all the right to ask questions as these were related to the issue at hand.
“He is the Secretary of Justice whose office has investigated these inmates and public officers. Thus, the committee allowed him to present his investigation and the witnesses in relation to the subject matter of the resolution,” Fariñas said in a statement.
Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte, a Duterte ally, backed Fariñas.
“The House could help the Executive Department come up with measures to prevent a repeat of the lax security and high degree of official corruption that have mired the Bilibid,” Villafuerte said in a separate statement.
Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza went a step further and called on de Lima to resign from the Senate.
“After listening to the testimonies given by witnesses showing her direct involvement with narco-syndicates and watching the Discovery Channel documentary … Who knows what other relations she may have had outside the New Bilibid Prison?” he asked.
“There is no other recourse for her but to resign her post as a senator. This investigation we started should not be in aid of legislation but in aid of prosecution,” Atienza added.
Duterte weighs in
President Rodrigo Duterte weighed in on Tuesday, claiming de Lima “allowed” the proliferation of illegal drugs in the New Bilibid Prison even if she was not directly involved in drug trafficking.
“It would be unfair to say de Lima was into drug trafficking, but by implication, kasi she allowed them through her driver, pati si Baraan [including Baraan],” Duterte said, referring to de Lima’s driver and supposed lover, Ronnie Dayan, and former Bureau of Corrections head and Justice undersecretary Francisco Baraan.
“I was correct all along because I was supplied with a matrix,” the President added.
Duterte was in Mawab, Compostela Valley where he visited the members of the 10th Infantry (Agila) Division.
Duterte said he would have declared martial law if he were President when drugs proliferated inside the state penitentiary.