De Lima mocks Duterte order to transfer witnesses out of Bilibid

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 7) — Detained Senator Leila de Lima on Saturday laughed off President Rodrigo Duterte's "insane" move to secure inmates who testified against her by transferring them to a facility outside the New Bilibid Prison.

The opposition lawmaker made this statement following the President's revelation Friday night that he ordered moving ten high-profile inmates to the Marine barracks in Taguig City. He said the transfer was based on fears De Lima's allies inside the national penitentiary may harm them.

"This is insanity in its most diabolical form," De Lima said in a statement made from the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, where she has been detained since 2017 over drug charges.

"Hahaha... So, in Duterte’s twisted mind, I’m that powerful! So powerful that I can actually command my alleged NBP “allies” to harm or assassinate their fellow inmates," De Lima said.

De Lima alleged that Duterte ordered the transfer so authorities can "further control" the inmates to pin her down.

"Malapit na kasing isalang sa witness stand ang mga convicts-witnesses na yan sa ongoing trial in my drug cases," De Lima said.

[Translation: It's because the convicts-witnesses will soon take the witness stand in the ongoing trial of my drug cases.]

A document dated June 12 prepared by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Senior Inspector Chief Raymund Peneyra and approved by now-sacked BuCor Director General Nicanor Faeldon was obtained by CNN Philippines on Thursday. 

The order transferred 10 "high risk" and "high profile" inmates from the Bilibid's maximum security compund to the Philippine Marine Barracks Rudiardo Brown in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

These inmates include Peter Co, Hans Anton Tan, Jojo Baligad, Vicente Sy, Froilan Trestiza, Nonilo Arile and Joel Capones, who all testified against De Lima on her supposed drug links.

They said De Lima, as Justice Secretary from 2010 to 2015, allowed the illegal drug trade at the national penitentiary in exchange for money. The Justice Department has supervisory powers of the Bureau of Corrections, which manages the Bilibid.

De Lima maintained that her drug cases were all trumped-up charges hurled against her for being a staunch critic of the Duterte administration.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier said he sees no special treatment in the transfer of inmates as this was done to secure the inmates who are witnesses in a case. He also said their stay at the Marines headquarters is temporary.