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Herbert Colanggo: Convicted crime leader, drug lord, recording artist

Jodesz Gavilan

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Herbert Colanggo: Convicted crime leader, drug lord, recording artist
Herbert Colanggo, who recorded a full music album while serving life in the New Bilibid Prison, has submitted an affidavit against Senator Leila de Lima

MANILA, Philippines — High-profile convicts allegedly involved in the drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) are expected to testify against Senator Leila De Lima during the congressional inquiry Tuesday, September 20.

Among the convicts reported to be part of the 14 witnesses is Herbert Colanggo. 

According to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, together with other convicts, Colanggo will prove that De Lima received drug money for her senatorial bid. 

De Lima, however, appeared unfazed by the supposed testimonies, stating that these are all lies

On Sunday, September 18, the neophyte senator announced she would neither be attending nor sending any representative or observer to the “sham inquiry.” (READ: De Lima to ignore ‘sham’ House probe)

But who is Colanggo? What role did he play inside Bilibid?

Crime lord

Herbert “Ampang” Colanggo was the leader of a notorious robbery group that had been tagged in several incidents dating back to the early 2000s. 

His robbery group was also reported to have worked with other syndicates. Some reports, however, also identify him as the leader of the Ozamiz robbery gang.

The Ampang Colanggo robbery group was tagged as being behind the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) branch in Cabuyao, Laguna in 2008 which left 10 individuals dead. The incident is identified as one of the bloodiest bank robberies in Philippine history.

After years of being elusive despite a string of bank robberies reportedly conducted by his group, Colanggo was finally arrested in January 2009 in a checkpoint at Barangay Tominobo, Iligan City.

In October 2014, the Parañaque Regional Trial Court sentenced Colanggo to life imprisonment.

However, his arrest and eventual conviction did not put an end to his group’s work. Several bank robberies after 2009 were continuously linked to members of the Ampang Colanggo robbery group. 

Herbert the artist

Colanggo is part of Bilibid 19, a group of high-profile, privileged inmates who had access to illegal drugs, firearms, drug paraphernalia, firearms, flat screen TVs, sex toys, and pornography, among others. 

Inside Bilibid, Colanggo built a life around his ambition of becoming a recording artist, following in the footsteps of his idols Michael Jackson, Martin Nievera, and Freddie Aguilar, among others.

The extent of Colanggo’s musical career was discovered during a series of surprise inspections led by then justice secretary De Lima. (READ: Philippine crime lord enjoys jailhouse rock)

The convicted crime lord rebranded himself as “Herbert C” and even released an album entitled “Kinabukasan” (Future) – all produced through a complete recording studio inside the country’s maximum security prison. 

A music video for one of the songs, “Pano ‘Yon,” was even filmed with what appeared to be a complete crew inside his music studio.

The album turned out to be a massive hit, despite being recorded and released under questionable circumstances. Released under Ivory Music, the album reached gold and platinum status

Colanggo was even named the New Male Recording Artist of the Year in 2014 by the Philippine Movie Press Club (PMPC).

The discovery of the 19 inmates’ luxurious living inside Bilibid ended the musical aspirations of Colanggo. The facilities were dismantled and the inmates were transferred to different facilities to hopefully lead to the “demise of syndicates inside the prison.” (READ: DOJ: Transfer to NBI doesn’t violate rights of prison VIPs)

However, contraband items such as cigarettes and cash were still found inside Bilibid in subsequent inspections.

CLOSE ENCOUNTER. Herbert Colangco speaks to PNP chief Dela Rosa while detained inside a bus during a surprise inspection at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City on July 20, 2016. Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

Drug links 

On July 7, President Rodrigo Duterte named Colanggo as one of the drug lords operating inside Bilibid, threatening him and Peter Co with death if they step out of jail. 

Ozamiz City mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr, one of the local government officials Duterte linked to drugs, is the father of Colanggo’s reported girlfriend, Ozamiz City Vice Mayor Nova Princess Parojinog.

The elder Parojinog, however, denied any involvement with illegal drugs and said he disapproves of his daughter’s relationship with the alleged drug lord. Nova Princess’ marriage to former basketball player Edgar Echavez has been annulled.

The existence and flow of illegal drugs inside Bilibid was largely blamed on De Lima. 

According to reports, Colanggo executed an affidavit claiming that De Lima was given millions by drug lords in exchange for allowing drug convicts inside the state penitentiary to continue their illegal operations.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is already eyeing criminal raps against De Lima over her alleged links to the illegal drug trade. She has denied the allegations.

According to Aguirre, there is basis to file the case based on the affidavits of the witnesses, including Colanggo. –

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and impunity beats, producing in-depth and investigative reports particularly on the quest for justice of victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and war on dissent.