Aguirre takes over BuCor, leads surprise inspection of Bilibid

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II conducted a surprise inspection of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) on Thursday, July 27, as he temporarily takes over the direct supervision of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

Aguirre started Oplan Galugad – a raid inside NBP jail cells for contraband items – at 4 am on Thursday. He inspected the maximum, minimum,  and Building 14 compounds of the NBP, with Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa and Special Action Force (SAF) chief Director Benjamin Lusad.

Results of the surprise inspection were not yet available as of posting time.

On the same day he led the NBP inspection, Aguirre announced he would directly supervise the management and operations of BuCor while awaiting the appointment of a new chief.

Former BuCor shief Benjamin de los Santos resigned recently, saying the resurgence of the drug trade inside the national penitentiary had made him "irrelevant."

Aguirre had earlier endorsed to President Rodrigo Duterte the appointment of Dangerous Drugs Board Chairman Dionisio Santiago as BuCor chief (READ: Aguirre bet for BuCor, DDB Chair Santiago, has drugs case on review)

SURPRISE INSPECTION. The justice secretary conducts Oplan Galugad inside Bilibid with PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa and Special Action Force (SAF) Chief Director Benjamin Lusad. Photo courtesy of DOJ

SURPRISE INSPECTION. The justice secretary conducts Oplan Galugad inside Bilibid with PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa and Special Action Force (SAF) Chief Director Benjamin Lusad.

Photo courtesy of DOJ

Aguirre takes over BuCor

Aguirre assigned Rey Raagas as BuCor officer-in-charge on July 17, but in his latest Department Order, the justice chief said he shall be responsible for management and operational issues not within the "ministerial powers" of the OIC.

Aguirre cited Republic Act No. 10575 or the Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013 which authorizes the Justice Secretary to assume such a role in BuCor.

All of these changes come amid the issue of drug trade resurgence inside Bilibid – the same issue raised against detained Senator Leila de Lima, who is facing drug charges in connection with the Bilibid drug trade when she was justice secretary.

On July 24, Aguirre ordered the return of several inmates to their original detention facility.

"All inmates who were previously transferred from Building 14 to Maximum Security or Medium Security and from Maximum Security to Medium Security since December 1, 2016," Department Order 496 said.

The DOJ did not name the inmates who will be transferred to their original jail cell.

Transfer of inmates

Among the inmates who were previously moved to the medium security compound from the maximum security compound are the drug convicts-turned-state witnesses against De Lima.

Vicente Sy, Jojo Baligad, and Peter Co were transferred in October 2016, after they were hurt in a riot inside the maximum security compound.

Dela Rosa earlier said SAF personnel tasked to watch over Bilibid complained of their deployment because they have no control of the the medium or minimum security compounds.

How I wish ibalik na ang mga drug lords sa building 14 at SAF ang mag-guwardiya (How I wish they would return the drug lords to Building 14 and allow SAF to guard them),” Dela Rosa said then.– Rappler.com