MALACAÑANG said Thursday that it would look into the supposed order of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II granting special privileges to high-profile inmates at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
"We'll verify that thing. We haven't checked it yet. We'll verify that accusation," Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a press conference. "A simple verification will suffice at this stage."
Abella was referring to a confidential Bureau of Corrections (Bucor) document obtained by newspaper Philippine Daily Inquirer that showed Aguirre apparently ordered the grant of special privileges to high-profile inmates as a reward for testifying against Senator Leila de Lima, who was linked by NBP inmates to illegal drug trade.
The memorandum dated December 9, 2016 allegedly found that eight inmates in NBP, including convicted robber Herbert Colanggo, were transferred to the military’s custodial facility in September last year, just before they attended the congressional probe into De Lima’s alleged drug links.
The document claimed that “the high-profile inmates detained in the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) Custodial and Detention Center continue to enjoy lavish lifestyles, e.g. use of electronic gadgets, smart television sets, airconditioning units, Internet, (and) cellular phones.”
"When pressed for comment, elements of both the PNP (Philippine National Police) and BuCor invoked that they are just following the express instruction of the Hon. Vitaliano Aguirre II to allow the entry of the above-enumerated gadgets in return for the testimony they gave during the congressional inquiry on the proliferation of drugs inside New Bilibid Prison," read the document.
President Rodrigo Duterte has accused De Lima of being the highest government official involved in the narcotics trade in the national penitentiary. De Lima has denied the allegation. (SunStar Philippines)