Aguirre to verify alleged 'restoration' of Bilibid inmates' perks

JUSTICE Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has ordered the Bureau of Corrections (Bucor) to probe the allegations of Senator Leila de Lima that some privileges of high profile inmates in the national penitentiary have been restored after they have testified against her in a congressional hearing last October.

In a memorandum dated February 8, Aguirre ordered Bucor chief Director General Benjamin Delos Santos to investigate the validity of De Lima's claims, saying some inmates have been allowed to enjoy privileges like the use of cell phones, electronic gadgets, televisions, internet access and airconditioning.

The DOJ chief has directed Delos Santos to "immediately" confiscate the prohibited items if it is indeed being used by the high profile inmates who are now detained at a detention facility in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

In an interview on Wednesday, De Lima said Aguirre restored the cellphone privileges of the high value inmates who testified against her in a congressional probe into the alleged drug proliferation in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) last October.

“I have proof na nung binalik na sila doon after they testified sa House, ni-restore nila yung mga privileges including the use of cell phones dahil pangako daw yun ni SOJ sa kanila when they agreed to testify against me,” De Lima said.

De Lima said she is considering filing charges against Aguirre before the Office of the Ombudsman for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for his alleged “grave abuse of authority.”

Aguirre, however, denied the allegations of the senator.

"I absolutely deny it. I made no such order," the Justice Secretary said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.

Aguirre pointed out in his statement that favors for special inmates were only being given during De Lima's tenure as the Justice Secretary.

"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," Aguirre said.

"She must be referring to her stint as Secretary of Justice when such privileges abounded and were tolerated in the NBP," he added.

Several inmates, including Herbert Colanggo and Jaybee Sebastian, earlier tagged De Lima in the illegal drug trade, accusing her of being a coddler of drug lords inside the national penitentiary.

Some of these inmates are still detained at the AFP detention facility in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Sebastian, meanwhile, is under the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation, after he requested to be transferred from the NBP's building 14 due to security reasons. (SunStar Philippines)

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