Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre on Wednesday told members of House Committee on Justice that the evidence they have at hand are more than enough to file cases against Sen. Leila De Lima, but added that it tripled after Police Deputy Director Benjamin Magalong revealed everything about the so-called failed “Operation Cronus”.
The police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group planned a raid on the New Bilibid Prison on learning of the thriving drug trade in the penitentiary but was bumped off the actual operation in December 2014 after the plan was presented to then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
“After we finished crafting the letter of instruction, we presented it to the Secretary (De Lima and) she said I will sign it jointly with the Secretary of Interior and Local Government (then Manuel Roxas II),” Director Benjamin Magalong, Philippine National Police deputy chief for operations, told the House justice committee during Wednesday’s hearing on the drug trade in the NBP.
The House conducted the probe after President Rodrigo Duterte publicly accused Senator De Lima of benefiting from the Bilibid drug trade. NBP convicts who have testified at the House probe linked her to the illicit business, particularly to convicted gang leader Jaybee Sebastian.
Magalong, who used to head the CIDG, said he would “make a follow through when (he and De Lima) meet, but she told me to just wait.”
In December 2014, when the raid was finally mounted, Magalong said those involved in operation were then Bureau of Corrections chief Franklin Bucayu, Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission executive director Reginald Villasanta and then PNP deputy director general Marcelo Garbo.
“To be honest with you, the PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) and our group, felt very bad” about being left out of the raid on the NBP, Magalong said.
Garbo, who retired as PNP deputy director general, is one of the police generals publicly accused by Duterte of protecting the illegal drug trade.
Bucayu has been named by several convicts who have testified at the House inquiry of receiving bribes from drug operations within the NBP.
Magalong said the CIDG began building up their case on the NBP drug trade as early as 2013.
Asked by Antipolo Representative Romeo Acop, a former police chief, if CIDG surveillance would “point to the fact that most of the uniformed personnel involved in drugs would report to the NBP,” Magalong replied: “Totoo po ‘yan, karamihan ng activities ng law enforcers, laging kumokonek sa loob ng NBP (That’s true, most of the activities of law enforcers lead inside the NBP).”
Because of this, Magalong said the CIDG began developing its own informants inside the penitentiary.
In May 2014, he said he presented his findings to De Lima, and after a series of planning activities, proposed the raid on the NBP, which was assigned the codename “Oplan Cronus.”
However, Magalong said when he discussed the proposed raid with Bucayu, the then Bucor chief appealed to him not to push through with it because “mapapatay ako (I could be killed).”
“We waited until I found out in December (2014) that they were planning … the raid. Even PDEA was wondering why we were left out of the picture. When they conducted the raid, we were already out of the picture, they only requested for (a) K-9 (unit) from PDEA,” Magalong said.
The PDEA representative confirmed that the only participation sought from PDEA was for it to deploy its sniff dogs for the raid.
DOJ pursuing money trail
Questioned by lawmakers on the viability of filing cases immediately based on what they had on hand, Justice Secretary Aguirre said that while Magalong’s testimony was credible enough and had caused “the strength of our case [to] more than double,” they’d rather await a report they requested from the Anti-Money Laundering Council in order to get further proof of the money trail.
“But please bear with us because the AMLA (meaning AMLC, the council), we made already the proper request with the AMLA, and they promised to release a copy to us this afternoon. Because we know very well that the people we suspected of being the prime mover of these illegal drugs in the NBP, of course, would not be stupid to deposit the money in their own account. We believe, meron na po kaming nasilip [we’ve gotten a glimpse of something] that will amount to billions,” Magalong said.
One of the suspected key player, for instance, has an account that has “P500 million, so bear with us.”
One of the members of justice committee said the testimony of Gen. Magalong has a clear connection with the testimonies of the present convict witnesses.
The testimony of Magalong was unexpected according to Aguirre and they considered it a deciding factor./Source: interaksyon.com