'Bato' wants drug lords returned to old jail cells

Annie Fe Perez and Kevin Manalo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 27 2017 01:56 PM | Updated as of Jul 27 2017 04:11 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) - Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa said Thursday that he wants Chinese drug lord Peter Co and other high profile inmates returned to their old detention facility in the New Bilibid Prison.

This, after police and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency personnel discovered an air conditioner, "kubol," and tiled floors in the cell of Co and his cohorts at the Medium Security Compound in a raid Thursday morning.

Dela Rosa said the decision would still depend on Justice Chief Vitaliano Aguirre but expressed concerns that Co and his cohorts might be proliferating illegal drugs in their new detention cells.

He said the inmates should go back to their old cells in Building 14. 

"It depends on the Secretary of Justice. He has to decide for that but if I have my way... ang purpose ba natin dito is tapusin ang droga di ba? Ang pinakasolusyon niyan is to ibalik sila sa Building 14. We have to do it. Ibalik ang mga tao na yan sa Building 14," Dela Rosa told reporters in Dumaguete City which he visited following the raid.

Building 14 in the Maximum Security Compound used to house high profile inmates engaged in the illegal drug trade. The compound is guarded by elite police Special Action Forces.

Most of these inmates testified before lawmakers last year linking now detained Sen. Leila de Lima to the narcotics trade. De Lima has denied the allegations and has branded her detention as "political persecution."

Speaking to ANC on Thursday, Aguirre said it is not clear to him as to why the high profile inmates were transferred to the Medium Security Compound.

"There are no SAF guards with respect to the Medium Security Compound so because of the security is not very strict in the Medium Security Compound, they (high profile inmates) could freely deal in illegal trade and that’s what we found out," he said.

The justice chief said he will launch a probe on the transfer.

Earlier this month, Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Chief Benjamin delos Santos resigned from his post amid the alleged resurgence of the illegal drug trade at the national penitentiary.

Aguirre said since there is no new appointee to replace Delos Santos, he has decided to assume direct supervision of the national penitentiary for a temporary period.

The justice chief however downplayed his earlier claims of a resurgence of the illegal drug trade, saying it is only of "very small quantity" compared to last year.

Dela Rosa was joined by Aguirre and PDEA Director Isidro Lapeña during the conduct of the raid.

The PNP chief even added that he would prefer that the inmates be placed in dungeons instead so they could no longer engage in illegal activities.

'Yung mga nandyan sa medium at kung pwede ibartolina yan para hindi na makagawa ng kalokohan," he said.

The raid was conducted after the justice department received information on the resurgence of the illegal drug trade in the Medium Security Compound.

Aguirre has vowed to clear the national penitentiary of illegal drugs and other contraband.