Sixteen of the so-called “VIP inmates” at New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City—some of them convicted of drug cases—denied on Wednesday that they were plotting to assassinate President-elect Rodrigo Duterte and incoming Philippine National Police head, Chief Supt. Ronald de la Rosa.
“We are not involved in this plot, if it [is] really true. We are afraid that this might be a way of ‘public conditioning’ so that we will be eventually silenced and the corruption that happened here inside NBP in the previous administration [will] be concealed,” they said in a letter sent to Justice Secretary Emmanuel Caparas through their lawyer Ferdinand Topacio.
The letter was from Jaime Patcho, German Agojo, Mario Tan, Jerry Pepino, Engelberto Durano, Rodel Castellano, Tomas Donina, Noel Martinez, Eustaquio Cenita, Herbert Colangco, Jojo Baligad, Clarence Dongail, Rico Caja, Joel Capones, Gilberto Salguero and Edgar Sayo Cinco.
Of the 16 inmates, six—Agojo, Durano, Martinez, Colangco, Baligad and Capones—were among the 19 prisoners moved in 2014 from the NBP to the National Bureau of Investigation compound. This was after a raid led to the discovery of contraband such as money, drugs and luxury items, including a jacuzzi, inside their well-furnished “kubol” or quarters inside the prison. They were returned to the NBP last year but taken to Building 14, a highly secure and tightly guarded structure isolated from the 13 other buildings within the prison compound.
In their letter, the convicts said their transfer may be a prelude to their liquidation because of what they knew about the protection racket of previous NBP officials.
“[S]uch purported ‘conspiracy’ may even be intentionally exploited or taken advantage of as an excuse to silence them as they have, in the past, intimated on their knowledge on the dishonest and corrupt practices by the past administration,” Topacio said.
The letter was accompanied by a three-page handwritten petition signed by the prisoners who protested their being labelled as “high profile inmates” or drug lords and crime lords. They also denied plotting to kill Duterte or De la Rosa.
“Our being labeled as ‘high-profile inmates’ has no basis and the truth is we are protesting this before the court and Commission on Human Rights as this is but part of the harassment being done to us in connection with the controversy over the protection racket under [NBP’s] previous administration that benefit the real crime lords here,” they said.
Topacio blamed “rumors being spread and fueled by unscrupulous individuals” as part of the conditioning of the mind of the public “such that any untoward incident that may happen to the prisoners in Building 14 may be unduly justified as related to the supposed ‘conspiracy’” against Duterte and De la Rosa.
De la Rosa recently claimed that millions of pesos had been offered as a reward by drug lords detained at the NBP who wanted him and Duterte dead. This was in response to Duterte’s vow to eliminate the drug problem in the first six months of his administration.
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