Two PNP generals mentioned at Bilibid drugs probe

Bea Cupin

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Two PNP generals mentioned at Bilibid drugs probe

LeAnne Jazul

Police Director Joel Pagdilao and retired Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo Jr are mentioned in two separate testimonies at the House inquiry on the alleged proliferation of drugs at the New Bilibid Prison

MANILA, Philippines – A convict and a high-ranking police officer mentioned the names of two police generals as they testified at the House probe into illegal drugs inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) on Wednesday, September 21.

On Wednesday, the House committee on justice resumed its probe into the supposed role of Senator Leila de Lima in the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the supposedly high-security NBP when she was justice secretary.

In the course of the 10-hour hearing, witnesses and resource persons went beyond talking about De Lima’s supposed action – or inaction – in dealing with illegal drugs inside the prison.

De Lima nephew, Pagdilao man?

Hans Anton Tan, a murder convict in Bilibid, said that a certain Jose Adrian Dera who introduced himself as a nephew and close-in security of De Lima, attempted to extort money from Bilibid convict Peter Co in March 2016.

Dera, whom Tan referred to as “Jad,” first met the convict in December 2014, during a De Lima-led raid on the Maximum Security Compound. Almost a year later, in October 2015, Dera again contacted Tan. This time, Dera claimed he was connected to the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO)- Regional Anti-Illegal Drugs (RAID) unit under “General Pagdilao.”

NCRPO CHIEF. Former Metro Manila top cop Police Director Joel Pagdilao. File photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

Police Director Joel Pagdilao, who was NCRPO chief at the time, has been tagged by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte as a police offical with ties to illegal drugs. Pagdilao was relieved from his post on July 1, when Duterte’s pick to lead the PNP, Director General Ronald dela Rosa, took over.

On March 25, 2016, Peter Co, whom Duterte had alleged to be a drug lord even in prison, was visited by his niece and her husband. After their visit, Tan and Co got a phone call claiming the couple was in the custody of the NCRPO RAID.

“They claim that though no evidence was recovered, a test-buy has come out positive. At first, they were demanding Five Million Pesos,” read Tan’s affidavit.

Dera later “happened to call” Tan. The two haggled over the phone until the demand was reduced to P1 million. Co instructed Dera, through Tan, to pick up the money at Solaire, a popular casino. Tan said he would later find out that Co handed over P5 million to Dera up until the senatorial elections.

Bilibid inmates have alleged that De Lima collected money through another inmate, Jaybee Sebastian, who instructed them to deliver their “quota,” allegedly for De Lima’s senatorial campaign.

Garbo’s role?

Another police general mentioned was retired Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo Jr, who was Philippine National Police Deputy Chief for Operations (DCO) during the 2014 raid on the Maximum Security Compound inside Bilibid.

The current PNP Deputy Chief for Operations, Police Director Benjamin Magalong, revealed on Wednesday that the 2014 raid was supposed to be a joint operation between the PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and other law enforcement agencies.

NBI RAID? Retire police general Marcelo Garbo (center). File photo by Gil Nartea/Malacañang Photo Bureau

Magalong pitched to De Lima, as justice secretary overseeing the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), the idea of a raid on Bilibid following intel reports that the high-security prison had turned into a hub for illicit drugs.

The police general said De Lima agreed with the planned raid and presided over several meetings.

Months later – to Magalong’s surprise – the NBI went ahead with the operation, leaving the CIDG in the dark. Instead, the the PNP’s NCRPO and Special Action Force were tapped as the “main force” in the operation.

Magalong said De Lima, then BuCor chief Franklin Bucayu, Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) executive director Reginald Villasanta, Garbo, and other law enforcement officials were present during the operation.

As DCO at that time, it would not have been unusual for Garbo to be present, Magalong said.

Magalong, however, could not say why the CIDG was looped out of the operation. –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.