LAWMAKERS raised their eyebrows after a police official testified that then justice secretary Leila de Lima took over the 2014 raid at the New Bilibid Prison that spared kidnap convict JB Sebastian, De Lima’s purported drug lord.
Philippine National Police (PNP) deputy chief for operations Director Benjamin Magalong on Wednesday told the House of Representatives inquiry into the Bilibid drug trade that the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), which he used to head, was not included in the prison raid in December 2014 led by De Lima that exposed the luxurious quarters of drug lords.
Apparently the raid spared Sebastian, who witnesses tagged as De Lima’s favored drug lord and the source of campaign funds raised from the supposed prison drug trade.
Sebastian’s kubol was demolished only in February 2016. De Lima resigned from the Department of Justice in October 2015 to pursue her Senate bid.
Lawmakers and even Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre III said Magalong’s narrative seemed to bolster the suspicion that De Lima pulled out 19 inmates from the maximum security compound of the Bilibid after the raid so that her favored drug lord Sebastian could monopolize the drug trade.
“I was startled when I got this information. When I looked at the affidavits of the witnesses, yung timeline, nagsasabay – as early as 2012, 2013, 2014. And all of a sudden, pumasok si Sebastian, siya nagmamando dun then nagka-raid noong December… at namayagpag (business niya),” Majority Floor Leader Ilocos Norte Rep. Rudy Farinas said.
Aguirre said Magalong’s account only bolsters the fact that De Lima preempted the CIDG’s Bilibid raid dubbed as “Oplan Kronos” so that she could transfer the inmates who were deemed as Sebastian’s competitors in the drug trade.
“Napalaki ang epekto ng pahayag ni General Magalong, yung pagta-transfer ng 19 na Bilibid ay sa December ginawa… Gusto palang i-preempt ang gagawing operation na Oplan Kronos. Napalaki pong tulong sa kung ano mang case ang i-fa-file namin,” Aguirre said.
In his account, Magalong said De Lima did not coordinate with the CIDG for the December raid even though months before De Lima called for a high-level meeting about the raid with the CIDG, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), and the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP).
Magalong said the CIDG concocted its plan for the Bilibid raid dubbed “Oplan Kronus,” an exclusively CIDG case operation plan that was crafted by an interagency committee composed of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the PDEA, the ISAFP and the Philippine National Police.
Magalong said long before the 2014 raid, he had been reminding De Lima about the need to dismantle the luxurious quarters of drug lords at the maximum security compound of the Bilibid.
Magalong said De Lima then called for a high-level meeting attended only by a few officers such as him and then PDEA Director General Arturo Cacdac.
Magalong said it was also unfortunate that National Bureau of Investigation Deputy Director General Rafael Ragos was included in the meeting. Ragos was accused by inmates of receiving a “tara” or “quota” in the illicit drug trade when he was then Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge.
Magalong said in the meeting, he reiterated his proposal to raid the Bilibid, showing De Lima photos of the luxurious quarters or “kubol” of the drug lords.
Magalong said De Lima stunned when she saw the lavish “kubol” of robbery convict and alleged drug lord Herbert Colangco.
After the planning session, a letter of instruction was crafted to implement the Oplan Kronos. Magalong said the letter of instruction was supposed to be signed by then interior secretary Mar Roxas and then justice secretary De Lima.
Magalong said the Oplan Kronos was never implemented because the letter of instruction was not approved by De Lima and Roxas.
“Nung nagpe-prepare na kami for implementation ng letter of instruction, we came up with Oplan Kronus pending approval of the letter of instruction. And we waited, and waited, and waited,” Magalong said.
Magalong said he was surprised when on Dec. 15, 2014, De Lima, the NBI and the PDEA K-9 unit swooped down on the Bilibid and raided the luxurious quarters.
The raid resulted in the transfer to the NBI detention facility of 19 inmates, including alleged drug lords Colangco and Peter Co.
Witnesses from the New Bilibid Prison in the House inquiry said Sebastian’s drug business flourished in the eight months the nine inmates were pulled out of the maximum security compound.
“Hanggang nalaman ko nung December, bigla na lang nag-plano na mag-ra-raid na sila. Pati kontak namin sa PDEA, nagtaka, bakit na-raid ang New Bilibid Prison, hindi kami kasali?” Magalong said.
“Ang nabanggit, wala na kami sa picture,” he added.
Magalong said he felt bad that De Lima sidelined the CIDG in the Bilibid raid.
“Unfortunately, when they finished the raid, hindi na kami kasali… To be honest with you, kami sa PDEA, masama ang loob namin dun,” Magalong said.
Magalong said when then Bureau of Corrections director Franklin Bucayo heard of the planned Bilibid raid, Bucayo pleaded Magalong not to pursue with Oplan Kronus.
Magalong recounted that Bucayo told him “Benjie, mamamatay ako. Delikado ako diyan.”
Magalong then said Bucayo asked for a meeting with De Lima, ahead of the Bilibid December raid.
Bucayo was accused by the Bilibid inmates of receiving millions of “tara” from the illicit drug trade. Bucayo was also included in the drug matrix of President Rodrigo Duterte linking De Lima to the Bilibid drug trade.
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