MANILA, Philippines – Joenel Sanchez, the alleged bagman and former security detail of Senator Leila de Lima, is being investigated by the Presidential Security Group (PSG), the agency he is currently assigned to.
This was announced by PSG Spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Michael Aquino in an interview with Palace reporters on Wednesday, September 21. Sanchez's name cropped up in the ongoing House probe into the New Bilibid drug trade.
"Upon hearing the news that he was implicated, PSG immediately conducted investigation effective September 18, 2016. To ensure his safety, we immediately placed him, confined in barracks, so that we can give way for investigation," said Aquino.
Sanchez, whose name the PSG statement spelled as "Jonel," is a sergeant who had been recently assigned as security of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea. Previously, he was detailed to De Lima when she was still justice secretary.
Back in July 1, or the day after President Rodrigo Duterte's oath-taking, the PSG had requested for Sanchez' reassignment. But because he was still "securing his pertinent papers in the unit for his new assignment," he was temporarily assigned to Medialdea.
The PSG, led by PSG Commander Rolando Bautista, decided to confine Sanchez and conduct an investigation after hearing his name during the House probe.
"Because his name was implicated so we thought it's proper to investigate the case as a part of due process," said Aquino.
Alleged drug lord and gang leader Herbert Colanggo claimed Sanchez spoke to high-profile detainees at the national penitentiary upon instructions of De Lima and delivered money from them to her.
Asked if the PSG would urge Sanchez to appear at the House probe, Aquino said, "Given the proper invitation, we will [allow him to]."
Whether or not Sanchez will be court martialed will depend on the outcome of the PSG investigation. Aquino could not say how long the investigation would last since there are many documents the PSG still has to "secure."
The House probe into the drug trade in New Bilibid Prison entered its second day on Wednesday, September 21.
Witnesses produced by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aquirre have tagged De Lima as a "coddler" of drug lords who supposedly accepted millions of money in exchange for various privileges.
De Lima has denied these accusations and claimed the House probe was orchestrated by President Duterte to discredit her.
De Lima had been at the helm of Senate investigations looking into Duterte's alleged involvement in extrajudicial killings. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.