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Convicted drug lord Tony Co was killed while four others, including the controversial Jaybee Sebastian, were wounded when a riot erupted at the heavily guarded maximum detention section of the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City, yesterday morning.
Justice and Bureau of Correction (BuCor) officials said the riot stemmed from the pot session which turned violent when an official of another gang reprimanded those engaged in using illegal drugs.
BuCor officer-in-charge Rolando Asuncion said Tony Co died while Sebastian, Peter Co, Vicente Sy and Clarence Dongail sustained injuries in the melee at Building 14, which houses high-profile prisoners.
He said the riot broke out at about 7:40 a.m. after the prisoners’ regular calisthenics was cancelled due to rains.
Prior to the incident, one prisoner noticed from his cell that the three Chinese prisoners were using illegal drugs at Tony Co’s area.
He reported the illegal activity to Dongail, who in turn advised the group to stop it as they could be caught by members of the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Force (SAF) who are guarding the facility.
Dongail later went to the common area where Sebastian was about to watch TV but Tony Co confronted and attacked him with a bladed weapon, triggering the riot.
Sebastian and the two Cos were taken to Medical Center Muntinlupa for treatment while Sy was brought to NBP Hospital.
Asuncion said Sebastian sustained “superficial injuries” while Sy and Co were in critical condition. Dongail was also injured but did not need hospital treatment.
Director General Ronald dela Rosa, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), has ordered the Special Action Force (SAF) to conduct an investigation as to what really happened inside the NBP.
“We are now conducting an investigation on that. I hope they (SAF) will come up with a very good investigation on what really happened,” said dela Rosa.
The riot, according to dela Rosa, will change the security atmosphere inside the Bilibid, especially among the leaders and members of various gangs inside.
“That will create distrust among them, they will now feel suspicious on everybody inside,” said dela Rosa.
And for the dela Rosa, what happened inside the NBP is somehow favorable.
“Mas maganda yan para mag-ingat sila, hindi sila kampante sa palibot nila,” said dela Rosa.
The NBP is notoriously known for special treatment on its high-profile detainees, especially the convicted drug lords who have been living a comfortable life inside.
Currently, some of the convicted drug lords and criminals are testifying against Senator Leila de Lima, accusing her of benefiting from drug money when she was still the justice secretary.
Earlier, de Lima revealed attempts to force Sebastian to testify against her.
Expected to be part on the SAF investigation is the existence of bladed weapons that were used in the riot.
The SAF, it was recalled, has taken over the NBP due to allegations that all the prison guards are already corrupted.
Also expected to be included in the probe is the report that some of the inmates were having a pot session before the riot occurred.
TIGHTER SECURITY MEASURE
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said that the government will impose additional security measures at the NBP, particularly at the maximum security compound.
Aguirre said the investigation will focus on how the inmates still managed to get their hands on illegal drugs despite the tight security measures at the NBP.
“Yan din ang katanungan ko, yan nga sinasabi namin na 90 percent napigilan namin. May nakapasok ba or mga tinago nila yan but the fact is nagsa-shabu sila ngayong umaga,” he said.
“Hihigpitan pa namin at may kailangan sigurong ihiwalay na mga inmates pero mag-uusap pa ang BuCor at PNP-SAF,” he added.
He pointed out that “hindi maganda para sa gobyerno na mamatay si Jaybee dahil siya ay inaasahan na mag-spill ng beans tungkol kay De Lima,” he also said.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez recognized yesterday there are “forces” that are seeking to stop inmate Jaybee Sebastian and other resource persons from attending the Lower Chamber’s third probe on the proliferation of drugs in the NBP on October 5.
The House Chief said he was saddened by the the riot in the NBP that led to the death of Tony Co and injury of high-profile prisoners, including Sebastian.
“This is sad because apparently, there are forces na ayaw magtestify si Jaybee Sebastian,” he told the reporters after the House supermajority caucus yesterday.
“Tingnan natin kung ano ang motibo kung sino ang mga nasa likod nito,” he said.
(with reports from Rey Panaligan & Charissa M. Luci)