Manila: Two inmates have testified in the Philippines’ House of Representatives that a former justice secretary, who is now a senator, allowed a Filipino drug lord to control the illegal drug trade at the national penitentiary in suburban Muntinglupa, for eight months.
Senator Leila de Lima was accused of allowing the drug trade to raise funds for her senatorial bid in the May 2016 polls.
“I have been a confidante of [convicted drug lord] Jayvee Sebastian. In November, he told me that he paid 10 million pesos (Dh830,000) to secretary de Lima for the pull-out of convicted Filipino and foreign drug lords, from the maximum security of the National Bilibid Prison (NBP), so he would have no competitors,” Rodolfo Magleo, former police inspector convicted of kidnapping in 2001 and leader of Kalasag, a gang of NBP inmates, told a committee at the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
“Sebastian owed [Chinese drug lord] Peter Co P50 million (Dh4.15 million) worth of shabu,” said Magleo, adding Sebastian ‘centralised’ illegal drug operations at NBP from December 2014 to August 2015 and drug lords from mainland China and Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Taiwan looked to him as a leader.
“Sebastian would invite Sec. de Lima in his bungalow (at NBP). I could sense something abnormal. The two of them would stay there for two to three hours. When she was gone, he would tell others, ‘Now you see how strong I am with Sec. de Lima,’” Magleo said.
De Lima and her driver and alleged lover Ronnie Palisoc Dayan met Magleo and three other inmates for the first time in mid-2012.
“The deal was for me to raise P50,000 [Dh4,166] a week (from selling shabu), but I managed to raise only P3,000 [Dh25] a week. Thus, I was taken out as a leader of Kalasag. But Jayvee Sebastian raised P100,000 [Dh8,333] a week,” said Magleo.
“(At the start of the meeting in 2012), Ronnie [the driver] told me that Sec. de Lima would run as a senator. He said she would also fund his candidacy as village head of Urbiztondo, Pangasinan,” recalled Magleo, adding, “They got all our cell phone numbers.”
“NBP was the drug trade centre of the Philippines — because Filipino drug lords order drugs from imprisoned foreign drug lords. Transactions are held outside NBP,” said Magleo, adding, “I heard Peter Co as saying in a drinking spree in 2012 that he had P1 billion [Dh83.3 million] collectible.”
Another witness, Herbert Colangco, said that in 2014, he gave P2 to P3 million [Dh166,666 to Dh250,000] a month to De Lima. The money was raised because he was allowed to hold concerts at NBP’s maximum security compound, and he could sell three truckloads of beers during NBP’s concerts.
P1 million [Dh83,333] a month was also paid to the head of the Bureau of Corrections for this kind of fund raising campaign.
Earlier, Magleo said that celebrities like Freddie Aguilar, Sharon Cuneta, Ethel Booba, and Mocha Girls had participated in Colangco’s NBP productions, adding this was one reason why NBP was also called “Little Las Vegas”.
“It is also called ‘Wild Wild West’ because all inmates were allowed to carry guns,” explained Magleo.
De Lima has denied the allegations. She is also facing an ethics complaint at the Senate. Late on Monday, she was removed as head of the Senate committee on human rights for alleged procedural errors in bringing in a witness who claimed he was a hit-man responsible for 1,000 killing allegedly urged by President Rodrigo Duterte when he was mayor of southern Davao City.
Local and foreign rights groups have criticised Duterte for 3,000 deaths in his drug-war since July. The police said drug syndicates were responsible for more than half of the incidents.
Duterte vowed to end drug problem in the Philippines in three to six months. Illegal drug trade reached $8.4 billion a year in 2013.