Illegal drugs found in Bilibid even after SAF takeover

Mara Cepeda
Illegal drugs found in Bilibid even after SAF takeover


However, Police Superintendent Francisco Ebreo says he is not sure if the drugs came from an old stash or were recently brought inside the prison

MANILA, Philippines – Illegal drugs were seized inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) even after elite troopers of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP SAF) had been deployed to guard the penitentiary.

Police Superintendent Francisco Ebreo admitted this to congressmen on Wednesday, November 16. The House justice panel’s subcommittee on correctional affairs conducted a motu proprio probe into the two stabbing incidents inside the NBP that left high-profile inmate Tony Co dead and 4 others injured. 

Ebreo, investigator from the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, said two of the convicts involved in the incidents – Co and a certain Dominguez – had tested positive for illegal drugs. 

“Ang lumalabas po doon sa drug test result ay iyung namatay na si Tony Co, positive po sa ilegal na droga. Pagkatapos po ng insidente, nagsagawa po ng drug test sa lahat ng inmates na andoon sa Building 14, at lumabas po sa resulta na iyung inmate na si Dominguez ay positive po sa ilegal na droga,” Ebreo said.

(The inmate who died, Tony Co, tested positive for illegal drugs. After the incident, all the inmates in Building 14 were subjected to a drug test, and inmate Dominguez also tested positive.)

On Wednesday, Ebreo told the House subcommittee that what occurred inside the NBP on September 28 was not a riot but two stabbing attacks that simultaneously happened in different areas.

The first incident involved inmate Tomas Doniña stabbing Jaybee Sebastian to stop him from testifying during the justice panel’s inquiry into the prison narcotics trade. The committee found “sufficient evidence” against former justice secretary and now Senator Leila de Lima.

The second incident involved inmates Edgar Singco and Clarence Dongail, who caught Tony Co, Peter Co, and Vicente Sy having a pot session in Tony Co’s cell. Their confrontation resulted to Tony Co’s death, while Peter Co and Sy were injured. 

According to Ebreo, the PNP SAF recovered illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia in Peter Co’s cell following the incident. 

While Ebreo said he is not sure if the drugs came from an old stash or were recently brought inside the prison, he insisted that the amount of drugs in the NBP had lessened since the PNP SAF took over security.

“Mayroon pa rin pong ilegal na droga, pero hindi po natin masabi kung laganap kasi kung tutuusin po, iyung nakukuha ngayon, maliliit na amount lang kumpara sa dating nakukuha,” he said.

(There are still illegal drugs, but we can’t say if it’s still widespread since the amounts we recover now are smaller compared to past raids.)

The proliferation of illegal drugs at the NBP is one of the many issues confronting the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), which oversees the national penitentiary.

The lack of funds to build quality prison facilities, to train BuCor personnel for proper prison management, and to provide inmates with enough resources have led convicts and prison guards to come up with coping mechanisms to address the deficits. (READ: Why anomalies happen in Bilibid)

These mechanisms, which include the pangkat (group) and mayores (ward leaders) systems, have made the NBP conductive to illegal activities over the years. –


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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.