SENATOR Leila de Lima used 19 drug lords jailed in the national penitentiary to raise up to P5 million a month each to fund her senatorial bid, and transferred those failing to meet their monthly quotas to sell 50 kilos of shabu to other prisons, witnesses told a congressional hearing Tuesday.
De Lima, who was Justice secretary under the previous administration, went to the New Bilibid Prison maximum security prison, transacted business with the drug lords directly and through her ex-lover-driver Ronnie Dayan and security aide Jonel Sanchez, the witnesses told the House committee on justice, chaired by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Renaldo Umali.
“The then Justice secretary made the maximum security compound the drug trade center in the Philippines. The drug lords transacted business inside the maximum security and the trading was done outside, with the syndicate moving across the country,” said kidnapping convict and former police inspector Rodolfo Magleo.
Magleo said 80 percent of the more than 6,000 inmates have cellphones that the syndicate used to transact drug business.
Doing away with the committee rules, Umali allowed Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to cross-examine the witnesses. Under the rules, only panel and House members are allowed to cross-examine and question the witnesses.
“He is the secretary of Justice whose office has investigated these inmates and public officers. Thus, the committee allowed him to present his investigation and the witnesses in relation to the subject matter of the resolution. He is not the counsel of these witnesses but a resource person of the committee. As you might have heard, the committee members themselves will have the opportunity to examine the witnesses and even test their credibility,” House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said.
The panel granted the drug lords and inmates immunity from suit in exchange for their testimony.
Magleo said De Lima was paid P10 million by one drug lord, Jaybee Sebastian, to effect the transfer of the so-called Bilibid 19, his competitors, so as to give Sebastian a monopoly on the drug trade inside the NBP.
Drug lord Herbert Colangco said he was confident he would not be transferred because he was giving De Lima P3 million a month in “PR payola” to allow contraband inside the NBP.
The contraband included golf carts, 300 boxes of beer in cans and a generator for concerts with celebrities, Colangco said.
While De Lima personally assured him that his transfer to the NBI was “temporary,” Colangco said his stay lasted eight months, allowing Sebastian to control the drug trade inside the NBP.
Colangco said he earned the ire of De Lima when he refused to take Dayan’s and Sanchez’s orders that he take 50 kilos of shabu from Chinese drug lords without paying for it, on the understanding that De Lima would transfer the Chinese to another penal colony.
“I did not agree at first,” Colangco said, saying he was afraid the syndicate would get back at him once De Lima was out of the scene.
But on Dec.15, 2014, Colangco said, National Bureau of Investigation agents swooped down on the maximum security prison, taking him and other drug lords to NBI detention cells.
“I felt bad. I felt betrayed. Wasn’t she satisfied with P3 million a month? She wanted me to cheat the other drug lords? The syndicate would kill me,” Colangco said in Filipino.
Colangco said Bureau of Corrections chief Franklin Jesus Bucayo was getting P1.2 million a month at the time.
Magleo, who has been serving his sentence since 2005, said the drug trade has worsened during De Lima’s stint as Justice secretary.
“From half a kilo of shabu a month being traded inside the NBP, the drug trade grew to up to 50 kilos a month when De Lima took over as Justice secretary in 2010 and the drug trade became worse starting in 2012. They imposed a quota. If a drug lord did not meet the quota, he would be transferred to other penal colonies,” Magleo said.
Magleo said he, as chief of the Kalasag group, and four of his men were summoned by De Lima and Dayan to seek their help.
Dayan said Magleo was summoned because he and Dayan were province mates as both were from Pangasinan and that Dayan boasted that he was very close to De Lima, who was seeking Kalasag’s help to raise funds for her senatorial bid.
Dayan, Magleo said, planned to run for mayor of Urbiztondo, Pangasinan, and De Lima would finance his mayoralty bid.
“There was something intimate between the two. I can sense. I can read between the lines. Can you imagine a driver-bodyguard being more powerful and richer than I am when I served as chief inspector,” Magleo said.
NBI Deputy Director Rafael Ragos, who served as officer-in-charge of the Bureau of Corrections in August 2012, affirmed Magleo’s claims and said Dayan and De Lima acted like “boyfriend-girlfriend.”
Ragos said he held the Bucor OIC position concurrently because he was comptroller at the NBI.
“There was no Bucor chief at the time and it was Secretary De Lima who was the de facto Bucor chief. She issued a department order detailing me to the Bucor and assigned me to be her eyes and ears there,” Ragos said.
Ragos said he was able to deliver P5 million, all in P1,000 bills contained in a black handbag to De Lima and another sealed black bag just as big and heavy as the first P5 million.
In November 2012, Ragos said he found money on his bed in his quarters in the Bucor and that he received a call from a certain drug lord named Peter Co instructing him to deliver the money to De Lima.
Ragos said he thought of asking his trusted NBI agent, Jovencio Ablen Jr. of the NBI Criminal Investigation Division.
Ablen also testified and claimed he saw “limang manok (P5 million)” that he and Ragos delivered to De Lima.
Ragos and Ablen said they delivered the drug money to De Lima’s home, also where Dayan was staying, at Laguna Bay corner Subic Bay Drive, South Bay Village, Parañaque City.
“I parked my vehicle in front of the house. Both Mr. Ablen and I alighted from the vehicle but I went to the gate alone carrying the black handbag containing the P5 million,” Ragos said.
At the gate, Ragos said, it was Dayan who opened the gate for him.
“I then handed the black handbag containing the money to Mr. Dayan. We then proceeded to the main door of the house where Senator De Lima was waiting for us. At the main door, Mr. Dayan handed the black handbag to Senator De Lima, who received the same. We then entered the house,” Ragos recounted.
About 30 minutes later, he left De Lima and Dayan.
A similar delivery was made in December 2012.
Colangco said De Lima became strict in making the drug lords meet the quota of 50 kilos of shabu sold each month starting from 2014 and more so as the elections neared.
Colangco said he led the collection of money from fellow inmates to help finance De Lima’s senatorial bid after convicted kidnapper Jaybee Sebastian sought his help
Wondering if De Lima was receiving the money, Colangco said he asked her aide, Sanchez, if he could speak with the Justice secretary.
Colangco said Sanchez handed him his phone and let him dial De Lima’s number. The witness said he could tell the woman on the other end of the line was De Lima.
He said he was sure that it was De Lima herself on the phone. “That was the voice I always heard on TV,” he said in Filipino. “It was her. I could tell… I’m 100 percent sure.”
He said he asked De Lima over the phone to confirm if she received the P3 million.
He said De Lima replied; “Okay, okay. Thank you.”
Colangco, in an affidavit submitted to the panel, alleged that De Lima recceived P3 million every month since January 2014.
He also alleged both in his testimony before the House committee on justice and in a sworn affidavit submitted to the panel that the director of the Bureau of Corrections during that time also allegedly got P1.2 million per month.
He also admitted he led the illegal drug operations at the NBP, and that his group was at the forefront, selling 10 kilos of shabu every month until Octoer 2014.
Colangco said the P3 million monthly payment was “protection money” to keep him at the NBP.
Former assistant solicitor general and now Sandiganbayan Justice Karl Miranda, meanwhile, denied allegations raised during the hearing that he supported the illegal drug trade in NBP.
Miranda made the statement in response to a video clip shown during the House inquiry that showed him visiting the national penitentiary. He said the clip was taken during one of the regular visits of Office of the Solicitor General legal interns to the national penitentiary to familiarize them with the OSG’s work.
Miranda said he welcomed the opportunity to clear his name and the misconception about him generated by the clip.
During the hearing, Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu said De Lima’s absence from the proceedings was her loss, not the committee’s.
“We have shown fairness and impartiality here but De Lima invoked inter-parliamentary courtesy,” Abu told the justice panel.
But Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, an opposition lawmaker, said De Lima’s efforts to dig deeper into the alleged “extrajudicial killings” in the government’s war on illegal drugs led to her ouster as chairperson of the Senate committee on justice and human rights.
“The premeditated removal of De Lima was a summary punishment for her crusade to stop the proliferation of a culture of violence. It is a blockage of the search for truth,” Lagman said.
“The ouster of De Lima hangs as a sword of Damocles and a stern warning to other Senate committee chairs that they must behave, otherwise they would be axed. Inter-chamber courtesy cannot bar the condemnation of acts inimical to the democratic process and an independent legislative investigation, an inherent power of legislatures,” Lagman added.