Embattled Senator Leila de Lima yesterday faced accusations that she received drug money from high-profile inmates at the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa.
A day after being stripped of the chairmanship of the Senate justice and human rights committee, De Lima came under fire during a congressional hearing looking into a multi-billion narcotic operations inside the national penitentiary.
Six witnesses were called in, including Herbert Colangco, a member of the so-called Bilibid 19 whose lavish lifestyles were exposed in 2014.
De Lima was pinned down to the alleged protection racket that allowed the high-valued inmates to turn the maximum security compound into a “Little Las Vegas.”
Rodolfo Magleo, a former police chief inspector convicted for kidnapping, alleged that illegal drugs, gambling and prostitution were rampant inside the NBP.
Magleo tagged Colangco, JB Sebastian and Peter Co as among those who raised money to bribe NBP and DOJ officials for protection of their narcotics racket.
He testified that Sebastian, who was featured in a one-hour Discovery channel documentary of gangland activities in the Philippines, gave De Lima protection money of an initial P10 million and P1 million monthly during her term as justice secretary.
The initial six witnesses, all convicted felons, are among 30 to be presented by the Department of Justice (DoJ) that will confirm the illegal drug trade ran inside Bilibid.
Upon recommendation of the justice panel chaired by Mindoro Oriental Rep. Reynaldo Umali, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez approved the request of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to grant the six convicts and former prison personnel immunity from criminal cases resulting from their testimonies.
Granted immunity were Colangco, Magleo, Jaime Patcho, Noel Martinez, Rafael Ragos, and Jovencio Ablen.
De Lima snubbed the House invitation, labeling the legislative inquiry as a sham.
Colangco, who recorded a music album while in detention, claimed he had given De Lima a monthly payola of P3 million and P1.2 million to the prison director.
He alleged that on the day they were transferred to the NBI detention cells, he was able to talk with De Lima who assured him he will stay there temporarily.
But Colangco said he was detained at the NBI for eight months.
Also testifying were former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos and NBI intelligence agent Jovencio Ablen Jr. who claimed they brought money to De Lima’s residence in Parañaque in 2012.
In one instance, Ragos said he handed a black handbag containing R5 million to Ronnie Dayan, De Lima’s driver and bodyguard. (BEN ROSARIO)