In a six-page letter addressed to Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair Loretta Ann Rosales, the families of Noel Martinez, Willy Sy, Michael Ong and German Agojo questioned the inmates’ transfer from the NBP to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) compound in Manila.
Martinez, Sy, Ong and Agojo were among the 19 inmates transferred to the NBI facility after a December 15 raid on the national penitentiary yielded illegal and prohibited items such illegal drugs, firearms, money, jewelry and gadgets.
According to the families of the four inmates, De Lima ordered the transfer “without any declaration as to her basis and authority in their selection, and in a manner similar to a warrantless arrest.” They were represented by lawyers Ferdinand Topacio, Joselito Lomangaya and Edzon Cristian Lauang.
In an attempt to justify the transfer, the lawyers said De Lima branded all the inmates as convicted drug lords even though Martinez was convicted for serious illegal detention.
“The Secretary actually confuses, to her convenience and advantage, between inmates who have been allegedly surprised with luxurious items on one hand, and those from whom suspected drugs were allegedly seized, on the other. Yet, she generalizes all of these inmates are ‘convicted drug lords’ who ‘control about 20 to 50 percent of the illegal drug trade in the state penitentiary’,” they said.
The lawyers said they and the relatives tried to visit the inmates various times at the NBI facility, but they were “consistently turned away by NBI guards, operatives and officials by reason of a directive by De Lima that persons who wish to visit the inmates must first secure a clearance from her.”
As a result of De Lima’s orders, the lawyers said the inmates have been detained incommunicado “for reasons, bases and authority that are not made known to them, much less to the public.”
They argued that De Lima’s actions constitute a violation of the inmates’ human rights since they were deprived of access to their counsel and visits from their family, as provided for in the Bill of Rights.
The lawyers asked the CHR to intervene in the inmates’ case and fulfill its function of “assessing jail and prison conditions against international human rights standards for the treatment of prisoners and detainees.”
They also urged the commission to be vigilant in light of reports that De Lima was “unduly selective and exercised favoritism in identifying the inmates to be transferred to the NBI, exempting therefrom some personalities close to her.”
De Lima had defended her decision to transfer the inmates to the NBI facility, saying it has “enough (legal) basis,” and was considered “exceptional” because it involved “identified high-risk and high-value inmates.” —Xianne Arcangel/KBK, GMA News