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‘Kubols’ found anew at NBP

By JONATHAN HICAP

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said he will conduct an investigation into the return of air-conditioned “kubols” (temporary shelters) found inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) medium security compound during the conduct of “Oplan Galugad” yesterday.

During the operation, PNP-Special Action Force (SAF) head Director Benjamin Lusad informed Aguirre of the return of “kubols” believed to have been erected by high-profile inmates.

It can be recalled that in 2016, Galugad teams tore down luxurious kubols of prominent inmates, including convicted drug lords, at Building 14.

Aguirre and Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa led yesterday the operations at NBP’s maximum and medium security compounds and the adjacent Building 14 to search for illegal drugs and other contrabands.

The operation was launched with the assistance of the PNP-SAF as Aguirre took over the supervision of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) including the NBP, following the resignation of Director General Benjamin delos Santos over the reported resurgence of illegal drug trade in the national penitentiary.

Aguirre said he assumed the management of BuCor starting July 26 “in the interest of the service.”

The justice secretary said BuCor officials have defied his order to return all of the high-profile inmates back to the maximum security compound of the NBP in Muntinlupa City.

“When I ordered the immediate return of these inmates, noong four or five days ago, hindi sinunod. Nakalagay kasi immediate,” Aguirre told reporters.

The secretary have ordered the BuCor officials to explain why they did not follow his Department Order (DO) No. 496 dated July 24, instructing them “to immediately return to their original detention facility all inmates who were previously transferred from Building 14 to Maximum Security or Medium Security and from Maximum Security to Medium Security.”

“Well, titingnan ko kung may katwiran sila. Dapat due process eh. Bigyan mo sila ng sufficient time to explain,” he said.

Aguirre assured that the new kubols found inside the medium security compound will be destroyed immediately.

“Unang-una hindi malinaw kung bakit ‘yang mga high-profile na drug lords na ‘yan ay nilipat from Building 14; at tsaka from maximum, nilipat to medium,” he said.

He noted that the high-profile inmates are much freer to do what they want at the medium security compound as SAF men were only guarding Building 14 and the maximum security compound.

“Kaya’t napakaluwag nila diyan sa medium nang sila’y ilipat dyan. Hindi mahigpit ang security diyan,” he added.

Earlier, the Bilibid 19 inmates appealed to the DoJ not to bring them back to Building 14 for their own safety.

In a manifesto, the Karapatan sa Batas at Lipunang may Katarungan Inc. (KABALIKAT) said the prisoners who testified against Senator Leila de Lima and are under the DoJ’s Witness Protection Program (WPP) should not be transferred from the NBP’s medium security compound to Building 14.

Some of those appealing are prisoners Jojo Baligad, Peter Co, Vicente Sy, Hans Tan, and Froilan Trestiza.

Their lawyer, Francis Acejas III, said the prisoners feel that their lives would be in danger once they are moved back to Building 14.

“Masasabi natin na there is clear and present danger kasi nag-cooperate sila sa Oplan Pagbabago ng BuCor. Marami silang mga taong na-involved so talagang there is clear and present danger to their lives,” he said.

Aguirre, however, stressed that if there are dangers to the safety of the high-profile inmates, “we are going to take care of that.”

He expressed confidence that those inmates would not retract their testimonies against De Lima despite their return to Buidling 14 and maximum security compound.

“Nung sila ay magtestify voluntary ‘yan, hindi sila tinakot, hindi sila binayaran, hindi sila pinangakuan ng kung ano man,” he said.

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