MANILA, Philippines–Reacting to the recent controversy at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Monday that convicted drug lords found to have been enjoying a luxurious lifestyle and continuing their trade from behind bars will be slapped with new charges and extended prison terms.
“Correct, more cases will be filed against them,” De Lima said to reporters who asked what penalties would be meted upon the prisoners in question.
On Monday morning, de Lima, along with 100 agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Philippine National Police (PNP), led a surprise inspection at the NBP’s maximum security compound.
Seized from within the prison were illegal drugs, and various recreational items; such as a hot tub, a 48-inch flat screen television, a Playstation 4, and a dining set, Among others. On inmate was also found with a sizable amount of cash in his possession.
De Lima said the raid was served as a “follow-through investigation,” as well as a “case buildup” against the convicts and prison officials found to be in cahoots with the illegal activity and smuggling in of contraband items.
Prior to the operation, there were already reports that wealthy, convicted drug lords were still able to continue their drug trafficking operations from inside prison.
The justice secretary expressed her disgust over what she described as dwellings more akin to a condominium than a maximum security lockup in a state prison.
“I’m completely disgusted. In fact I feel beyond disgusted because I thought problems like that are being dealt with because sometimes they (prison officials) conduct raids and they report results to me. They even have list of [seized] contraband. It now appears it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” she said.
“Maybe the New Bilibid Prison personnel could not get inside because they are prevented or not allowed. Or maybe, somehow, they are being threatened or bribed to turn a blind eye,” she conjectured, in reference to claims that prison officials were “unaware” of the luxurious dwellings.
De Lima renovations of the facility will be underway as soon as the Bureau of Corrections receives the allotted budget, but it could take a while before the facility is ready.
“We will make it more secure. We will put proper facilities, such as closed-circuit television cameras, and we will place dependable prison guards. It will take a few months,” she said.