High-profile inmate killed, 3 others hurt in Bilibid incident

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — At least one convict died in an incident that erupted early Wednesday morning at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge P/Supt. Rolando Asuncion said.

Convicted drug lord Tony Co was killed, and three others wounded in the fight at Building 14 of the maximum security compound where high-profile convicts are held, according to Justice Undersecretary Erickson Balmes.

The so-called king of drug lords Jaybee Sebastian, and other inmates Peter Co and Vicente Sy are among those injured. They were brought to Medical Center Muntinlupa for treatment. Co and Sebastian had to undergo surgery.

The hospital administrator explained the puncture wounds of the four inmates were mostly in the chest area.

Related: Who is Jaybee Sebastian?

Asuncion said seven to eight inmates were involved in the "rumble," adding an ice pick was recovered from the crime scene.

He denied the incident was staged to kill Sebastian.

"It's just a plain riot. This is just a usual occurrence in prisons," Asuncion said.

The Bureau of Corrections is investigating the incident, including reviewing the CCTV footage.

Not just any 'prison riot?'

House Speaker Bebot Alvarez believes the timing of the incident is questionable and doubts it is a "simple prison riot."

"That is sad because apparently there are forces na ayaw na magtestify iyong si Jaybee Sebastian. Tignan natin ang motibo kung sino ang ayaw na malaman siguro iyong katotohanan. Targeted pa intended resource person na nabanggit sa hearing," he said.

[Translation: That is sad because apparently there are forces who don't want Jaybee Sebastian to testify. We will see the motive of those who don't want the truth to come out. The intended resource person mentioned in the hearing was targeted.]

Sebastian was initially slated to appear in the House probe, but Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said they can do away with Sebastian's testimony.

The House Committee on Justice is conducting a probe on the illegal drug trade inside Bilibid.

In their testimonies, the high-profile inmates at the Bilibid claimed they paid then Justice Secretary Leila De Lima millions of pesos so they could bring in illegal drugs and other banned items.

They identified Sebastian as the top drug lord inside the Bilibid. He allegedly raised millions to fund the campaign of De Lima.

The 'Bilibid 19' at Building 14

Tony and Peter Co, and Sy are part of the so-called "Bilibid 19," drug lords who were found to be living high and continuing their illegal trade inside the national penitentiary.

After a raid in December 2014 revealed drugs, cash, and luxury items inside the areas or "kubols" of these convicts, they were transferred to Building 14.

Related: Convicted kidnapper: We were forced to sell drugs to fund De Lima campaign

Equipment like closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras were installed in the building.

On Tuesday, two high-powered signal jammers were installed inside Building 14 to make sure inmates can no longer use their smuggled cellphones which they had been using to conduct business despite a ban on these devices.

The deadly incident happened after the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force took over security operations at the NBP in July.

Aguirre earlier told a House probe that despite the SAF manning Bilibid, one cannot say it's completely contraband-free. But he also said drug transactions at the Bilibid have decreased by 90 percent since SAF troopers were deployed.

CNN Philippines correspondents AC Nicholls, Anjo Alimario, Gerg Cahiles, Joyce Ilas, digital producers Lara Tan and Eimor Santos contributed to this report.