Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Wednesday said the cases against officials allegedly involved in New Bilibid Prison drug trade were strengthened by details that the former chief of the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group gave on the planning and implementation of a raid in the penitentiary.
By Rosette Adel (philstar.com) | Updated September 21, 2016
MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Wednesday said the cases against officials allegedly involved in New Bilibid Prison drug trade were strengthened by details that the former chief of the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group gave on the planning and implementation of a raid in the penitentiary.
Aguirre said Philippine National Police deputy chief for operations Director Benjamin Magalong’s revelations that the CIDG planned the raid but was bumped off after then Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, now a senator, saw the plan, bolsters the testimonies of inmate witnesses.
“Magalong’s revelations are one of the strongest evidence against the perpetrators… With [General] Magalong’s testimony, the strength of our case is more than doubled,” Aguirre, who also said the Justice department is still building cases, said.
Star-rank officials of the Philippine National Police are informally referred to as generals despite the civilian nature of the police force.
Oplan Cronus pinpoints NBP drug trade
On Wednesday, Magalong discussed the plan to execute ‘Case Operational Plan Cronus,’ originally crafted for the CIDG to gather more information and for case-buildup in late December 2013. He said the intelligence gathering led to a proposal to conduct a raid in the NBP.
He said police found that “Agaw Bato” schemes, where drugs seized in legitimate police operations were being “recycled” and sold by police officials, had apparent links to inmates at the NBP.
“Hahatiin na nila yung malaking loot — let’s say 100 kilograms, ide-declare lang nila na 30 kilograms ‘yung ipa-fastbreak ho nila. At the same time, ‘yung Chinese [drug trafficker] na mahuhuli ipapatubos pa nila yan kikidnapin at ipapatubos nila iyan. Kukuha sila ng ibang Chinese national at ‘yun ang papalabasin na nahuli nila,” Magalong said, adding police already raided a CIDG unit in Pampanga engaged in “Agaw Bato”.
“Based on our operational research, ang sources po ng drugs, mga transaction ho nila ang ka-deal ho nila yung mga tao sa Bilibid prisons,” he said.
Magalong said he then met with De Lima to present their findings. During the meeting, he said, he saw a diagram in her office indicating operations inside the NBP, as well as personalities and “kubols”, which matched CIDG findings.
He said he proposed a raid on the penitentiary, to which the then Justice secretary agreed.
The former CIDG head said other agencies such as the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, National Bureau of Investigation, and Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, were then notified and a series of discreet planning sessions.
However, after a series of follow-ups and waiting for a Letter of Instruction for the CIDG to carry out the raid, the plan was implemented in December 2014 without Magalong’s unit.
“Nalaman ko nang December  bigla na lang sila magpa-plano na magraid sila. Nag-conduct sila ng raid pero bakit nawala na kami sa picture? At the same time,sa PDEA, ang pinadala na lang sa kanila K-9 po,” Magalong said.
Instead, the Dec. 15, 2014 was led by De Lima, Bureau of Corrections Director Franklin Bucayu, Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission Executive Director Reginald Villasanta and then PNP deputy director general Marcelo Garbo. Garbo is one of the first five police officials President Rodrigo Duterte accused of being involved in the illegal drug trade.
“To be honest with you, kami po ng PDEA, talagang masamang masama po talaga ang loob namin doon,” Magalong said.
Magalong said there were four discreet meetings to plan for the raid but Bucayo urged him to discontinue his plan to raid because his life was in danger. “Benjie, mamatay ako delikado ako diyan sabi niya sakin,” Magalong said, quoting Bucayu.
‘December 2014 raid a move to continue NBP drug trade’
Prior to the December 2014 raid, Magalong said the original plan raid the two sections of the NBP, Carcel and Presidio, which were headed by Herbert Colanggo and gang leader Jaybee Sebastian respectively. He said they were supposed to be isolated, brought to Palawan or Zamboanga and then guarded by the PNP Special Action Force.
Magalong added De Lima promised to release P12 million to rehabilitate the penitentiary in Palawan or Zamboanga where the two high-profile inmates would be brought but that did not happen.
“Nagulat na lang ako when they finished the raid, ‘di nagamit ang napag-usapan [isolation],” he added, saying inmates were brought to the NBI detention center instead.
Inmates who spoke before the House Justice committee have linked De Lima to gang leader Sebastian. Aguirre claimed Magalong’s testimony proves that there was a preemptive move from De Lima to continue drug trade inside the NBP.
“[The] Bilibid 19 was moved so that Jaybee Sebastian could monopolize NBP drug trade,” Aguirre said.
Earlier, witness Jerry Patcho claimed Colanggo and Sebastian used to be big-time drug lords inside the NBP. Inmates said that changed after the raid, with them alleging that Sebastian was favored by De Lima.
“Bago nangyari ang Bilibid 19, si Herbert Colangco ang pinaka-mataas sa amin. Nung nalipat na sila, si Jaybee na ang nag-hari,”
The House Committee on Justice is on the second day of the hearing into the alleged drug trade inside the NBP.