MANILA— “Pure hearsay and absolutely no legal or factual basis.”
Thus Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said Friday on the claims of Sen. Leila De Lima that some high profile inmates are living lavish lifestyles at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Detention Center after testifying in a probe into the alleged proliferation of illegal drugs at the national penitentiary.
“I absolutely and categorically deny the allegations made by Sen. De Lima that I have ordered the restoration of the alleged “lavish” lifestyles of the inmates who testified against her at the House of Representatives probe in the proliferation of the Drug Trade at the National Bilibid Prisons. The inmates being referred to are presently detained at the AFP Custodial and Detention Center in Camp Aguinaldo,” Aguirre told reporters in a press conference Friday.
Aguirre said De Lima must be referring to her term as Secretary of Justice when lavish lifestyles abound and tolerated at the Bilibid Prisons.
On that same day that De Lima announced her allegations, Aguirre said he immediately issued an memorandum to Bureau of Corrections chief Benjamin Delos Santos to investigate the matter.
“Ganyan po kami sa DOJ ngayon, ibang-iba noong mga naunang panahon na may sulat na nga si Mayor Duterte sa Secretary of Justice na imbestigahan ang droga sa Bilibid eh inabot ng halos isang taon bago umaksyon,” he said.
He also showed to media some photos of the inmates detained in Camp Aguinaldo which show their rather simple lifestyle in contrast to the claims of De Lima.
“These pictures were taken today, February 10, 2017 at around 11:15 a.m. at the AFP Custodial and Detention Center in Camp Aguinaldo. These are the conditions of our inmates now. Is this a lavish lifestyle? You are more than free to visit them at Camp Aguinaldo if you doubt these pictures,” Aguirre told reporters.
He also refuted the statement of De Lima referring to a confidential memorandum dated Dec. 9, 2016 where Atty. Alvin Herrera Lim, chief of the Legal Office of the Bureau of Corrections, stated that: “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.”
“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. Hindi dapat paniwalaan yan,” he explained.
“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.
Aguirre also said Undersecretary Reynante B. Orceo sent a letter addressed to Lim dated January 4 and the letter stated: “Let it be clarified that the Secretary nor any of his representative from the Department did not authorize nor give instruction related to the above mentioned matter. Such insinuations and suggestion should be rectified and clarified accordingly.”
Aguirre also revealed that Lim has already been suspended twice before for several charges against him.
“At any rate this Atty. Alvin Herrera Lim during the time of Sen. De Lima, dinemanda po yan ng grave misconduct and he was suspended and found guilty for simple misconduct,” he said.
He said Lim is also facing a case for unauthorized practice of law in Lucena without permission.
Several news reports earlier said a confidential memorandum dated Dec. 9, 2016 and signed by Lim revealed that high-profile inmates detained in the AFP Custodial and Detention Center “continue to enjoy lavish lifestyles e.g. use of electronic gadgets, smart television sets, air conditioning units, internet, cellular phones.”
It said PNP and BuCor elements 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 gave during the congressional inquiry on the proliferation of drugs inside New Bilibid Prison.”
Meanwhile, BuCor chief Benjamin Delos Santos on Friday ordered the relief of all the prison guards stationed at the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) detention facility due to these reports that some high profile inmates temporarily detained there are given special privileges.
Delos Santos ordered the 20 prison guards headed by Prison Guard 3 Marlon Mangubat to be transferred back to the New Bilibid Prison to be investigated to determine their possible liability.
In response to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II memorandum issued on Wednesday, Delos Santos said a clearing operation was conducted by a joint team of BuCor and members of the Special Action Force (SAF) at the said facility.
The BuCor chief said the joint team have dismantled air conditioning units and also searched all the rooms and no cellular phones were found in the rooms of said inmates.
He said there is only one phone installed at the reception area for emergency purposes, under watch by BUCOR-SAF and all calls are logged individually showing inmates name, time, date and party contacted.
He added that there is only one television set installed and that is at the reception area for scheduled viewing.