THE presidential palace sees nothing wrong about President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s order to transfer 10 high-profile inmates to a Marine facility in Taguig.
The prisoners, who testified against Senator Leila M. De Lima — a critic of the government’s deadly war on drugs — were moved from the national jail in Muntinlupa City because their lives were in danger, presidential spokesman Salvador S. Panelo said in a statement at the weekend.
The president “supervises the entire bureaucracy” and has “complete control and supervision over all offices and agencies under the Executive department,” he said.
Ms. de Lima, who was arrested in February 2017 on what she called “trumped-up” drug charges, earlier questioned the transfer.
Dismissed prison chief Nicanor E. Faeldon approved the transfer of “high risk” inmates to the Philippine Marine Barracks in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, according to CNN Philippines.
The inmates had linked Ms. de Lima to the illegal drug trade inside the national jail in Muntinlupa when she was still Justice secretary.
Mr. Panelo said the convicts “remain in a detention facility under the control of the Bureau of Corrections without any VIP treatment.”
He said their lives were in danger for testifying against the senator.
Mr. Panelo said Ms. De Lima had accumulated sympathizers or henchmen who might derail the unmasking of the truth about the illegal drug trade inside the prison.
“The transfer is clearly unusual and irregular given the role played by the prisoners in question in the case against Senator Leila de Lima,” Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, a lawyer and a senior research fellow at the Ateneo de Manila University Policy Center, said in an email. “So it’s only natural that the senator would raise questions about the move.”
While the action was within the president’s authority, the public is entitled to ask why the he ordered the transfer, Mr. Yusingco said.
“The people deserve to know the reasons why the president used his power of control over the executive branch in a way that puts his administration in a negative light,” he said. “His move is very reminiscent of how Marcos ruled during his authoritarian reign. We cannot expect Filipinos to just let this go without raising the alarm,” Mr. Yusingco added. — Arjay L. Balinbin