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Palace tells PDEA chief: Put in writing NBP drug trade info

Malacanang on Monday, Sept. 16, asked the head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Director General Aaron Aquino, to put in writing his allegation that the illegal drug trade continues to thrive in the country’s biggest jail facility, New Bilibid Prison (NBP), an underworld business that the Duterte administration used to send President Rodrigo Duterte’s loudest critic, Sen. Leila de Lima, to jail.

Salvador Panelo, presidential spokesperson and chief legal counsel, said Aquino should have submitted a written report on his narration alleging that the drug trade continues at the NBP with the help of prison officials.

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“Has Mr. Aquino submitted the memorandum to the President relative to that? You have to ask him first. If he has, then we will find out what action the President did,” Panelo said at a press briefing.

He made the remarks when asked to comment on Aquino’s narration that he had brought up his concern at a one-on-one meeting with the President about former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officials involved in the prison drug trade.

In a radio interview on Sunday, Sept. 15, Aquino said the satellite office of PDEA at the NBP was removed during the term of then BuCor chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, now a senator.

The PDEA chief also claimed that Dela Rosa ordered the removal of the PDEA’s listening devices at the NBP, which discreetly caught conversations on drug dealings inside the NBP.

Aquino also claimed that Nicanor Faeldon, during his term as BuCor chief to replace Dela Rosa, shot down the PDEA’s proposal to require prisoners to undergo drug testing.

The PDEA chief blamed this on the sour relations or “bad blood” between him and Faeldon.

Asked if the President was aware of this situation, Panelo said he will ask Duterte first.

“I’ll ask him about it. But meanwhile, you must remember that there is an ongoing investigation of the Senate. So, we will have to wait for the findings of the Senate,” Panelo said, referring to the Senate’s investigation of massive corruption at the BuCor ranging from the sale of good conduct time to moneyed prisoners enjoying luxurious amenities.

In a separate Senate hearing on the PDEA’s budget on Monday, Aquino revealed that the recycling of illegal drugs confiscated from buy-bust operations is “still rampant” among some law enforcement agencies.

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The Duterte administration had filed criminal charges against De Lima, Duterte’s most vocal critic, alleging she took part in a conspiracy to deal in drugs at the NBP during her time as justice secretary, who had supervision over the BuCor./TSB

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