MANILA—Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II ordered the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to conduct an investigation on a report stating that some inmates temporarily detained at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Custodial and Detention Center are given special privileges.
”In connection thereto, you are hereby directed to investigate and verify such report. If so warranted by your investigation, any special privileges granted to these inmates, be it in the form of special favors, improvements and equipments in violation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Department of National Defense (DND) and Department of Justice (DoJ), shall be immediately confiscated or dismantled,” Aguirre said in his one page memorandum to BuCor chief Benjamin Delos Santos issued on Wednesday.
Aguirre has earlier denied claims of Senator Leila De Lima stating that he has restored the privileges of inmates of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) who testified in the inquiry of the House of Representatives on the proliferation of illegal drugs at the national penitentiary.
“I absolutely deny it. I made no such order. However, allow me to point out that Senator De Lima used the term “restores, it only means that she is admitting that such privileges that she claims were restored were existing during her time as Secretary of Justice!”, Aguirre said.
“She must be referring to her stint as Secretary of Justice when such privileges abounded and were tolerated in the NBP. She must have a lot of spare time to reminisce about her past. You can only reminisce about factual things, things that actually happened,” he added.
Aguirre remained unfazed as he dared de Lima to present evidence to back her accusation.
“If she has the evidence, then present it,” Aguirre said, adding that since he started his stint as DOJ chief, such ”privileges” of the inmates were cut.
“If may evidence that actually made such an order the accuser should be the one to bring it forward, ” Aguirre said.
Aguirre said if De Lima has the goods on him, then she should disclose it instead of just making statements to the media.
“That is absolutely untrue. She must be thinking of the time when she was the Secretary of Justice,” Aguirre said when asked for comment on de Lima’s claim.
De Lima claimed she has “indisputable information that Aguirre restored the privileges of the high-profile inmates led by convicted robber Herbert Colanggo who testified against her in the House’ inquiry on the narcotics trade.
She said among these privileges were the use of cellular phones and other electronic gadgets, television, airconditioning units and even Internet access.
The use and or possession of such devices inside the New Bilibid Prison are strictly prohibited with Aguirre himself saying last year that the illegal drugs trade proliferated of the inmates proliferated due to the presence of communication gadgets which allowed them to contact their cohorts outside.
De Lima said if Aguirre will deny such accusation, she will show the evidence to members of the Commission on Appointments which is tasked to deliberate on and approve the appointment of Cabinet officials.
The CA has deferred the confirmation of Aguirre due to the opposition of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.