Aguirre wants new drugs board chair Santiago as BuCor chief

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II will recommend retired general Dionisio Santiago as a "possible replacement" for Benjamin de los Santos who resigned as Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said on Friday, July 14.

"Secretary Aguirre will also recommend today as possible replacement Ret Gen Dionisio Santiago," DOJ Undersecretary Erickson Balmes told reporters on Friday.

President Rodrigo Duterte recently appointed Santiago as  Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) chairman. Santiago is Duterte's source for his figure of 4 million drug addicts in the Philippines, in contrast to DDB's own count of only 1. 8 million.

Santiago replaced Benjamin Reyes who was unceremoniously fired by Duterte in a public address for contradicting the figures of drug addicts.

Prior to his appointment to the DDB, Santiago chaired the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). He has not replied to Rappler's request for comment as of posting.

De Los Santos' resignation

De los Santos announced on Thursday that he tendered his irrevocable resignation as BuCor chief. Aguirre thanked him for his service on Friday.

De los Santos resigned Duterte's and Aguirre's statements that drug lords were back in business inside the New Bilibid Prison. He said the drug trade's resurgence inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) had made him "irrelevant."

The Bilibid drug trade continued to prosper even after members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF) were deployed to the national state penitentiary. Aguirre alleged that some SAF members might have become too "familiarized" with the inmates, and mulled replacing them with soldiers.

PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said that his SAF men also want out of the jails.

An inmate also died under De los Santos' watch. Efren Ventura died in a stabbing incident on Monday, which being investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). –


Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.