MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Powerful politicians pressure prison officials to grant privileges for some influential detainees at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), according to a former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief.
Retired General Dionisio Santiago, who also served as director of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, said on Thursday that First Gentleman Jose Miguel 'Mike' Arroyo once called him up to ease prison regulations for former Misamis Occidental Mayor Reynaldo Yap, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder.
“Iyon ang topic namin, siya ang tumawag sa akin. sabi niya 'Pasensya ka na, pulitiko tayo eh.' Sabi niya, 'Basta huwag lang sa drugs.' Sabi ko ‘Iyon nga ang problema sir eh, nasa drugs.’ Sabi niya ‘Ah ganoon ba? Kalimutan mo na nag-usap tayo,’” he told TV Patrol.
Arroyo, husband of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, has yet to comment on the allegation.
Santiago said he encountered several "influential prisoners" in 2003.
These included Taiwanese drug convict Wu Tuan-Yuan alias Peter Co, who allegedly operated a small shabu lab inside Bilibid.
Santiago said that after he ordered Co's transfer to the Leyte Penal Colony, he was offered a bribe several times to have Co returned to Bilibid.
He said the bribe offers reached P5 million. "Di ko tinanggap," he added.
Under his watch, another Taiwanese drug convict, Tsai Jung-Shiu alias Frank Chua, managed to escape.
Santiago believes that some corrupt jail guards helped Chua escape.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has ordered an investigation into Chua's escape.
"We will look if he's still being hunted but baka out of the country na," DOJ Undersecretary Francisco Baraan said. - Report from Alex Santos, ABS-CBN News; ANC