MANILA – Former Justice secretary and now Senator Leila de Lima never went into an inmate's "kubol" or room unless it was for security reasons, said former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Franklin Bucayu on Thursday afternoon.
De Lima never went into convicted drug lord Herbert Colanggo's kubol, though she did pass by it once when she visited the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), Bucayu said during a hearing of the House Committee on Justice regarding the thriving illegal drug trade at the national penitentiary.
However, Bucayu admitted that De Lima did go into high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian's room, though it was to flee from a grenade that someone had lobbed near her.
"I think there was one [time], noong may naghagis ng granada…ang area na pinaghagisan, malapit sa kubol ni Jaybee Sebastian [kaya doon siya pumasok]," Bucayu said, adding that he did not follow De Lima into the kubol as he wanted to investigate the incident.
Despite allegations by Sebastian’s fellow inmates that he was given preferential treatment by the DOJ, Bucayu said his perceived exemption from “Oplan Galugad” which transferred 19 high-profile inmates involved in illegal operations inside the NBP was a decision arrived at by a committee.
"Si Jaybee [Sebastian] po ay hindi nakasama doon sa 19 na iyon dahil noong kami ay nag-uusap, napag-isipan ng grupo na kung maaalis silang lahat ay maaaring magkaroon ng vacuum of leadership," Bucayu said.
(Jaybee Sebastian was not included in the 19 inmates targeted for transfer because the group decided that if they were all to leave, there would be a vacuum of leadership.)
"Pinagpilian kung si Jaybee o si Colanggo. Ang napag-agreehan ay si Jaybee ang maiiwan dahil sa tingin ng grupo, siya ang more manageable and cooperative."
(We were choosing between Sebastian and Colanggo. We agreed to leave Sebastian behind because the group thought he was more manageable and cooperative.)
According to Bucayu, they had to consider the reality of life inside the prison, which had become a kind of walled city where over 14,000 prisoners roamed without restraints, guarded by only about 100 BuCor officers.
If the inmates rioted in a bid to snatch the leadership of the prison, Bucayu said, BuCor officers would not have been able to contain them.
'MILLIONS IN KICKBACKS'
The first witness brought to Congress by the Department of Justice (DOJ), convicted kidnapper Rodolfo Magleo, claimed that De Lima got millions in kickbacks from Sebastian in exchange for special treatment.
De Lima once spent 2-3 hours inside Sebastian's kubol, claimed Magleo.
According to Magleo, an operation to move several high-profile inmates, so-called the "Bilibid 19", led by the DOJ, BuCor, NBI, and other agencies, was meant to ensure that Sebastian got a monopoly of the drug trade at the NBP.
In a privilege speech at the Senate in August, De Lima said that it was during her term that the Bilibid inmates' kubols were torn down.
"Sa termino ko lang po bilang Justice Secretary nag-umpisang maglinis sa Bilibid…but of course, all of this has been sorely forgotten in the face of a formidable demolition campaign against me,"
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