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MANILA, Philippines -  Sen. Leila de Lima called out the Duterte administration on Wednesday for being hypocritical in claiming to abhor everything about the illegal drug trade while bestowing favors on some of its key players.
De Lima cited an alleged confidential memorandum by Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Benjamin de los Santos to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II regarding the use of the penal facility of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in detaining high profile inmates who implicated her in the drug trade.
The inmates currently housed at the AFP detention facility include Herbert Colanggo, a convicted armed robber turned drug dealer, who testified against De Lima during the hearings of the House of Representatives into the alleged proliferation of illegal drugs in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
The AFP confirmed certain privileges were given to inmates housed at its detention facility, citing unauthorized fixtures and equipment.
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A separate memorandum prepared by the BuCor’s legal office chief Alvin Lim for De los Santos tagged Aguirre as having given instructions to the Philippine National Police (PNP) and BuCor personnel assigned to guard the inmates to allow the entry of electronic gadgets, including cellphones, inside the facility.
The information was revealed by De Lima during a press briefing earlier this week.
Aguirre has denied this but ordered an immediate investigation into the claims and the confiscation and dismantling of whatever illegal fixtures and equipment are present at the AFP facility.
Aguirre described the allegations hurled by De Lima as hearsay.
“I absolutely and categorically deny the allegations made by Senator De Lima that I have ordered the restoration of the alleged ‘lavish’ lifestyles of the inmates who testified against her… The inmates being referred to are presently detained at the AFP Custodial and Detention Center in Camp Aguinaldo,” he said.
Aguirre countered her accusations by citing the lavish lifestyle of inmates when De Lima was DOJ secretary.
But Aguirre did not deny the contents of the supposed “confidential memorandum” that came from Lim.
When asked if he is implying that the confidential memorandum does not exist, Aguirre merely replied that the memorandum should have remained confidential and it would be investigated who had leaked it to the public.
In the memorandum, Aguirre reportedly gave instructions to allow the entry of gadgets for the inmates in return for the testimony they gave during the congressional inquiry.
A portion of the confidential memorandum states, “When pressed for comment, elements of both PNP and BuCor invoked that they are just following the express instruction of the Hon. Vitaliano N. Aguirre II to allow the entry of the above-enumerated gadgets in return for the testimony they have during the congressional inquiry on the proliferation of drugs inside the New Bilibid Prisons.”
Aguirre said Lim has already been suspended twice for grave misconduct for alleged unauthorized practice of law in Lucena.
“As a former secretary of justice and a lawyer who is confident enough to call other lawyers mediocre, Senator De Lima should know that the above statement is an absolute hearsay. And we know that hearsay has no evidentiary value. We should not believe this,” Aguirre said.
“Why is the good senator resorting to using hearsay evidence? Has she run out of things to say? Has she reached a new level of desperation? Desperate times call for desperate measures,” he added.
The latest scandal
De Lima said the action taken by Aguirre, in spite of his denials, only confirmed that the documents she cited were genuine.
“One indication is Secretary Aguirre himself and even BuCor director general De los Santos have not denied the existence of those documents, especially the Dec. 9 confidential memo as attached to the Dec. 15 memo of De los Santos to Aguirre,” De Lima said.
“Aguirre should answer the question if he or his office received the said documents and if so, what did he do about it? Why did he order the investigation only now?” she asked.
De Lima stressed the details in the documents should be investigated thoroughly.
She said the latest “scandal” only shows that the members of the administration are hypocrites in their stance against the illegal drug trade.
“This is the worst kind of hypocrisy and they are the worst kind of hypocrites. I thought they really wanted to end the drug menace? It will definitely worsen if these drug convicts will continue to engage in their drug trade,” De Lima said.
“We all know that these cell phones are their number one instruments in conducting drug transactions, so why did they allow this again?” she added.
De Lima also hit back at Aguirre for his attacks against her term as justice secretary, during which he said she allowed the proliferation of illegal paraphernalia inside NBP.
According to De Lima, she was not aware of the situation inside the NBP initially, but when she was told about it, she immediately conducted a raid of the facility.
This time around, De Lima noted Aguirre is singing the same tune and she is returning the favor by raising the issues he raised against her.
De Lima said she does not see the investigation into the issue prospering at all.
“How can we expect Aguirre to investigate himself?
“As I see it, it’s possible that they concealed or suppressed those docs as the facts disclosed therein, especially the Dec. 9 confidential memo, are very sensitive as they are explosive. So who then is the real protector and coddler of drug convicts/drug lords?” she said.

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AFP Public Affairs Office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo confirmed the military made the report and submitted its findings to the DOJ on the supposed “lavish lifestyle” of the inmates.
He said the BuCor has control, administration and management of the inmates and the determination as to who will be kept in that facility, the mode of transfer and when, including the deployment of guards, will be by the DOJ. – With Evelyn Macairan, Michael Punongbayan


SOURCE: Philstar
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