MANILA—Malacañang said the high-profile convicts transferred from the national penitentiary to the Marines' barracks in Taguig City are not receiving any preferential treatment, amid public outcry.
"The high-profile convicts remain in a detention facility under the control of the Bureau of Corrections without any VIP treatment," Palace spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement Saturday.
"In other words, no special or unusual considerations are granted to them."
Ten such convicts, including drug lord Peter Co, were earlier transferred from the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City to a detention facility in the Marines Barracks Rudiardo Brown.
"Security is the primary consideration for said transfer and such reason, the Palace firmly believes, is legally valid given that their lives are under threat because of their testimonies," Panelo said.
"Their lives are endangered, that is why they were transferred."
President Rodrigo Duterte said he ordered the transfer because he was afraid that people of detained Sen. Leila de Lima, one of his staunchest critics, would get to the convicts at the Bilibid.
Of the 10 convicts, 7 had testified against De Lima on her alleged involvement in the drug trade at the national penitentiary during her time as justice chief, which she has denied.
De Lima previously said the transfer was meant to pressure the convicts to stick to their “perjured testimonies.”
In a statement Saturday, she added that the development served to boost the administration's fabricated narrative on her.
"It should be clear to everyone that this latest presidential inanity is but another move aimed at perpetuating their biggest lie or grossest myth — na ako daw ay sangkot sa ilegal na droga," De Lima said.
She alleged that the transfer was meant to use the said detainees for the government's case against her.
"Aminin nyo na lang kasi na ang totoong dahilan sa paglipat nyo sa mga convicts-witnesses na yan sa Philippine Marines HQ ay ito: For you and your equally evil operators to further control these witnesses in terms of pinning me down in the drug cases against me," De Lima said.
"Malapit na kasing isalang sa witness stand ang mga convicts-witnesses na yan sa ongoing trial in my drug cases."
— With a report from Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News