FOR unknown reasons, former Justice Secretary now Sen. Leila de Lima aborted a plan of the law enforcement agencies to raid the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) over the reported proliferation of illegal drugs.
Testifying before the legislative inquiry, General Benjamin Magalong, Philippine National Police (PNP) deputy chief for operations, said that while police and the Department of Justice (DoJ) planned to jointly raid the national penitentiary in 2014, a few select officers proceeded not to raid the place but to transfer the so-called high profile inmates to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
“Masamang-masama ang loob namin noon. Kasama kami sa plano, nakailang meeting kami to plan for the raid. We waited for the instruction from Sec. De Lima. Sila lang natuloy, hindi kami sinama,” Magalong told the House Committee on Justice.
When asked who were the officials that led the raid on December 15, 2014 Magalong replied: ”De Lima, former Bureau of Corrections Director Franklin Bucayu, General Reginald Villasanta and former PNP Director General Marcelo Garbo Jr.”
According to Magalong, who was then Director of Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), the DoJ, CIDG and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) started planning the Case Operation Plan Cronus or the Oplan Galugad in July 2014 after getting intelligence report that the use and trading of illegal drugs particularly shabu were ongoing inside the NBP.
In one of the meetings, Magalong said Bucayu tried to stop the raid because this would put his life in danger.
“General Bucayu manifested na huwag nang ituloy ang raid. Madami siyang sinabi na negative but I told him we have to proceed,” Magalong said.
“Sabi ni General Bucayu na ‘mamamatay ako, delikado ako dyan.’ Nag-usap kami ang sabi ko sa kanya, si Sec. De Lima lang ang pwedeng magdecide. Nakiusap siya na ako ang kumausap kay Secretary de Lima. Tinawagan ko siya then sila na ang nag-usap," he added.
Magalong also said no one wanted to be the ground commander during the raid, not even Bucayu and General Cacdac, which prompted him to volunteer because he wanted to get rid of drugs in the prison facility.
But from the last meeting until October 2014 he did not receive any instruction from De Lima. He also relayed the matter to then Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas because it would need a joint letter of instruction (LOI) from DoJ and DILG.
"I volunteered to be ground commander. Naghintay kami ng tawag. Sometime in Sept. 2014, nagpunta ulit sa akin si Bucayu and Villasanta at nakiusap ulit sila na huwag nang ituloy ang raid," Magalong further said.
He tried to follow up with De Limato and was told “Hintay ka lang Benjie” until he heard in the news that the DoJ and BuCor had their raid on December 15, 2014.
During this raid, the kubol of high-profile inmates were inspected and De Lima ordered the 19 prisoners to be placed under the custody of NBI.
One of these was convicted bank robber Herbert Colanggo, who was eventually involved in drug peddling inside the NBP.
In his testimony, Colanggo said their transfer to NBI was done in connivance with De Lima and another inmate Jaybee Sebastian, who wanted to monopolize the drug operation. Sebastian allegedly helped De Lima collect payola for her campaign funds.
President Rodrigo Duterte tagged Garbo as one of narco generals or officials of the PNP involved in illegal drugs.