MANILA – Little Las Vegas.
This was how inmates at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) called the national penitentiary's maximum security compound during the stint of Senator Leila de Lima as justice secretary, according to inmate Rodolfo Magleo.
Magleo, a former anti-narcotics cop who was convicted of kidnapping in 2004, was one of the 6 witnesses that Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II presented in Tuesday’s House probe into the alleged proliferation of drugs at the national penitentiary during the previous administration.
According to Magleo, drug lords and inmates at the maximum security enjoyed various perks and privileges supposedly due to lax supervision from de Lima and the BuCor.
“During the tenure of then-secretary de Lima, ang maximum security compound ay tinaguriang ‘Little Las Vegas’ and at the same time, 'Wild (Wild) West,''' Magleo said.
“It was called ‘Little Las Vegas’ dahil maraming concerts na nangyayari and [these were] not ordinary concerts. Concert ito ng mga celebrities, mga famous celebrities katulad nila Freddie Aguilar, Sharon Cuneta. The Mocha Girls performed, [as well as] Ethel Booba. I cannot recall the name of the dancers anymore, and several comedienne, celebrities.”
Reacting to Magleo's claim, Gang Badoy of Rock Ed Philippines, admitted that Cuneta indeed performed for the Bilibid inmates as an outreach. She noted Cuneta performed for free.
"We were the ones who arranged for @sharon_cuneta12 to perform inside prison as outreach. Not the MochaGirls tho nor Freddie," Badoy said on Twitter.
"It was an outreach concert, Sharon gracefully sang for the inmates. It had nothing to do w/ Jaybee Sebastian," Badoy added, referring to one of Bilibid's high-profile inmates.
Badoy said Rock Ed had been arranging concerts at the Bilibid since 2007 and these were different from the ones organized by another high-profile inmate, Herbert Colangco.
"We arrange them. Rock Ed did [it] for 9 yrs. Lots of bands have played inside [with] us," she said.
'DRUG OPS THRIVED'
Magleo alleged that the operations of the convicted drug lords thrived during de Lima’s time. He claimed 80 percent of the inmates had cellphones and other gadgets and this helped them do the drug trade.
According to Magleo, foreign drug lords, mostly Chinese, sought the help of their Filipino counterparts in selling drugs beyond the walls of Bilibid.
Some of these foreign drug lords, Magleo said, are Peter Co, Ben Marcelo, Jackson Li, Yong Yin, and Alex Chen.
“Itong mga Pinoy players, they have their players outside, mga agents sa labas, covering Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Through cellphone magkocontactan sila. Iyung tao ng foreign national drug lord, siya ang magbibigay ng droga sa tao ng Pilipino at magme-meet sila sa labas,” Magleo said.
(These Filipino players, they have their players outside. They have agents covering Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. They contact each other through cellphones. The agents of the foreign national drug lords will be the one to give the illegal drugs to the agents of the Filipino players.)
Magleo also claimed that Co was able to rake in billions because of the drug trade.
He also claimed that Jaybee Sebastian had disclosed to him that several drug lords and inmates would be removed from the maximum security compound so he could monopolize the drug operations at the Bilibid.
Sebastian had to give de Lima P10 million in exchange for the transfer of the so-called Bilibid 19 inmates to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) headquarters.
Marcelo claimed that Sebastian told him he paid millions to de Lima and then BuCor chief Franklin Bucayu and that he financed de Lima’s senatorial campaign.
De Lima has denied all allegations that she helped the drug trade at the national penitentiary flourish. She called the House's inquiry a sham and part of the demolition job against her.