Some witnesses vs De Lima now out of Bilibid, document shows

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 5) — Ten high-profile inmates, including some who have testified against Senator Leila de Lima’s alleged involvement in the illegal drugs trade in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), have been transferred out of the penal facility and are now in the Marines’ barracks in Taguig, a document obtained by CNN Philippines shows.

The document dated June 12 was prepared by Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Senior Inspector Chief Raymund Peneyra and approved by now-sacked BuCor Director General Nicanor Faeldon.

The order transfers 10 “high risk” and “high profile” inmates from the NBP’s maximum security compound, also known as Building 14, to the Philippine Marine Barracks Rudiardo Brown in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City.

Among the inmates who were transferred to the Marines barracks are convicted drug lord Peter Co, who eventually testified against De Lima on her supposed drug links.

Convicts Hans Anton Tan, Jojo Baligad, Vicente Sy, Froilan Trestiza, Nonilo Arile and Joel Capones, who all testified against De Lima, are also now in the Marines barracks.

Other inmates transferred to the Marines barracks are Chua Che Ket, Rico Caja and Allan Senogat.

Marines Public Affairs director Captain Felix Serapio confirmed to CNN Philippines that all these inmates previously detained at the NBP’s maximum security compound are in their detention facility.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier told senators that he knows of an agreement between the BuCor and the Marines for certain inmates to be moved to Marines facilities “for some very special security reasons.”

“As far as I remember, that arrangement was done for security reasons because these people are witnesses to a certain case,” he said during the Senate’s hearing on the early release of heinous crime convicts through the expanded Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) policy.

Guevarra later told House reporters in a chance interview that the case he was referring to was De Lima’s drug cases.

Na-inform ako na mayroong ganoong arrangement kasi nga pino-prosecute na ‘yang kaso ni Senator De Lima kaya naa-update ako ng prosecution panel,” Guevarra said.

[Translation: I was informed that there was that kind of arrangement because Senator De Lima’s case is being prosecuted, so I am being updated by the prosecution panel.]

But Gueverra could not confirm whether the inmates have actually been transferred.

During the Senate probe, the Justice Secretary said he believes that inmates could not be transferred unless a court allows it.

But Faeldon said there is no need for a court order as the Marines facilities are considered as extensions of BuCor facilities under an agreement between the Justice and Defense departments.

He also said the transfer of the inmates from NBP to the Marines facility is legal, citing Republic Act No. 10575.

"It's mandated there that BuCor can coordinate with AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP (Philippine National Police) camps for detention provided it's covered by a MOA (memorandum of agreement)," he said.

CNN Philippines research shows no such provision in the law. It only states that the BuCor will conduct a feasibility study into the establishment of a Philippine Corrections Academy, patterned after the Philippine National Police Academy and the Philippine Military Academy.

Faeldon also denied that the transfer of some convicts who testified against De Lima to a Marines facility is their reward for coming out against the opposition senator, who has been detained for three years over drug charges.

"Dapat ang tanungin niyo na lang doon ay 'yung higher [authority]. Not me. I'm sure the [Justice] Secretary can explain," he said.

[Translation: You should ask higher authority about that. Not me. I'm sure the Justice Secretary can explain.]

CNN Philippines’ Pia Hontiveros, Joyce Ilas and Xianne Arcangel, Gerg Cahiles and Xave Gregorio contributed to this report.