MANILA (UPDATE)—President Rodrigo Duterte admitted Friday he ordered the transfer of 10 high-profile convicts, including drug dealer Peter Co, to a detention facility of the Philippine Marines in Taguig City.
In a speech, Duterte said he ordered the transfer because detained Sen. Leila de Lima, one of the President's staunchest critics, allegedly had people inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), where the convicts were previously staying.
"May isyu na may ibang hindi ko pinakulong sa penitentiary (NBP) sa Muntinlupa. Pinalipat ko diyan sa Marines. Bakit? Dahil natakot ako na may marami pang tauhan si De Lima na naiwan diyan at 'yang mga tumestigo at nandiyan iihawin talaga 'yan," Duterte said in Cebuano during a groundbreaking ceremony of a housing project in Naga City, Cebu.
(There's an issue that there were others in the penitentiary (NBP) in Muntinlupa. I transferred them to the Marines. Why? Because I was scared that De Lima still has people inside there, and these witnesses and those are there will be killed inside.)
"Pagdating ng panahon, wala nang magsasabi ng totoo. Sasabihin ko sa inyo, akin 'yan. Ako ang nag-utos niyan," he said.
(When time comes, nobody will be telling the truth. I will tell you, that's mine. I ordered that.)
De Lima slammed the president's remarks against her, calling them "baloney" and "hilarious."
"For 'very special security reasons' raw because they are 'witnesses to a certain case,' meaning, the trumped-up drug cases against me. Are they implying that there’s a security threat coming from me?" she said in a statement.
De Lima said she suspects the prisoners' transfer was meant "to further coach and coerce or pressure them to stick to their perjured testimonies."
"Tila walang katapusan ang kasamaan ng rehimen na ito!" she said.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra previously said the 10 NBP prisoners were moved to a detention facility for erring Marines personnel in Fort Bonifacio over threats to their security.
In a document dated June 12, 2019 obtained by ABS-CBN News earlier from the office of Sen. Panfilo Lacson, dismissed Bureau of Corrections chief Nicanor Faeldon signed an order transferring confinement of the following “high risk and high profile” prisoners:
- Hans Anton Tan
- Peter Co alias Wu Tuan Yuan
- Jojo Baligad
- Vicente Sy
- Froilan Trestiza
- Nonilo Arile,
- Chua Che Ket
- Rico Caja
- Joel Capones
- Allan Senogat
Seven of the 10 inmates had testified against De Lima on her alleged links to the drug trade at the NBP during her time as justice chief. De Lima had denied the allegations, saying the charges were political persecution.
In September last year, De Lima moved to have them disqualified as witnesses on account of their conviction for crimes involving moral turpitude. They are:
- Arile, convicted for murder and kidnapping
- Baligad, convicted for murder
- Sy, convicted for illegal sale and delivery of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu)
- Tan, convicted for robbery and direct assault with murder
- Trestiza, convicted for kidnapping
- Co, convicted for illegal sale and delivery of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu)
- Capones, convicted for homicide
Co was named by Duterte himself as one of the top suppliers of shabu in the country. He was serving life imprisonment at NBP since 2001.
Reports of the transfer came amid controversy over the early release of nearly 2,000 heinous crime convicts under the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law. Alleged corruption in the legal system is under Senate investigation.
- With a report from Mike Navallo and Zhander Cayabyab, ABS-CBN News