Ex-CIDG chief says ranking cops involved in recycling drugs, extorting from Chinese syndicates

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"All roads practically lead to the New Bilibid Prison," retired police official Benjamin Magalong said of the country's illegal drug trade.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 19) — A retired police officer has revealed how rogue cops peddled illegal drugs and extorted from Chinese drug syndicates – a scheme supposedly involving some active high-ranking police officers.

It is called the "Agaw Bato" scam, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, former head of the Philippine National Police's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), told a Senate hearing on Thursday.

Before retiring as CIDG chief in 2016, Magalong said he discovered a scheme whereby cops would seize illegal drugs from arrested Chinese traffickers.

"They would later free them in exchange for money, and arrest another Chinese national as replacement for the freed drug trafficker," Magalong said as he read his affidavit. He said the last case he investigated involved cops extorting ₱50 million from a Chinese drug syndicate in exchange for a drug lord's freedom.

Magalong said the cops would bring their drug haul to their "safe houses." Once they managed to do so, they would either report that the operation was botched, or declare a smaller amount of seized drugs so they can keep the bigger chunk for themselves to distribute and sell.

He also corroborated earlier testimonies from officials and inmates themselves that drug lords are managing illegal trade from inside the New Bilibid Prison.

"Lumalabas na all roads, practically lead to the New Bilibid Prison. We found out that despite being detained inside the National Bilibid Prison, these Chinese drug personalities continue to remotely manage the drug trade in the entire country," Magalong said.

He disputed talks of a shabu laboratory inside the national penitentiary, saying there is no need for such facility as the drug lords could easily make orders from inside their jail cells.

Senator Franklin Drilon pointed out that Magalong's testimonty and first-hand account confirms the theory earlier shared by Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Aaron Aquino.

When asked if the police officers involved are still active, Magalong said yes.

He asked for an executive session to tell all on the drug trade, including the names of rogue cops involved.

"Mataas po, medyo may rank na po sila," Magalong added. He said the illegal actvities continue until now, although probably on a smaller scale.

Magalong said he reported how the convicted drug lords wielded control of the drug trade, but lamented how then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima excluded the CIDG in a controversial 2014 raid that revealed drugs, cash, and luxury items inside "kubol" or cells of high-profile convicts.

Magalong was invited to testify about illicit activities in Bilibid, a penitentiary in Muntinlupa City run by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

All eyes are on the BuCor in the wake of reports that former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez, a convicted rapist and murderer, would be released based on time credits earned for good behavior. It sparked public outrage that prompted Malacañang to block any possible release for Sanchez, and Congress to review the expanded good conduct time allowance law.

Earlier hearings revealed other corrupt practices inside the Bilibid. Witnesses said there's a 24-hour casino inside the national penitentiary. High-profile inmates pay prison guards ₱30,000 to allow female entertainers to stay in their cells overnight and convicted drug lords buy their way to be admitted inside the Bilibid hospital for drug transactions.