By Hannah Torregoza
A former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer-in-charge and an National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) intelligence agent reiterated on Thursday that they delivered money to Senator Leila De Lima’s house in 2012 when she was still secretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The testimonies of former BuCor officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos and NBI intelligence agent Jovencio Ablen Jr. were the same accounts the government used to prosecute De Lima over the alleged proliferation of illegal drugs in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP). The government accused De Lima of using money sourced from illegal drugs to finance her senatorial campaign in 2016.
De Lima, who is currently detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame over those charges, has repeatedly denied the allegations.
During the hearing, Ragos and Ablen also testified about the rampant corruption and money-making schemes inside the NBP, which they say reach about P300,000 to P500,000 in weekly earnings for BuCor officials.
Asked by Sen. Richard Gordon if the money reached the level of then DOJ chief De Lima, Ragos answered in the affirmative.
When asked by Sen. Francis Tolentino if De Lima tolerated the illegal activities in the NBP, Ragos said the former Justice secretary tried to initiate reforms in the national penitentiary but it was only for a short period.
“Actually, we made some steps to reform, including yung mga raids para sa mga droga at kubol, but then short period lang po. Talagang mahirap i-solve ang problem sa BuCor,” Ragos said.
According to Ragos, these reforms were initiatives he suggested to the then Justice secretary. De Lima, he said, also gave the go signal for “big events” inside the NBP when she was the DOJ secretary.