MANILA, Philippines – If troops from the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s Special Action Force (SAF) had a choice, they would pull out of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa, where they have been tasked to guard the prison cells of high-profile convicts with persisting links to illegal drugs.
“Sila nga mismo gusto nang umalis doon dahil wala silang complete control doon sa Bilibid drug lords, diba (They themselves want to leave because they don’t have complete control on the Bilibid drug lords, right)?” said PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa in a press conference on Tuesday, July 4.
Earlier this week, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II admitted that drugs still proliferated in the high-security prison, despite the deployment of SAF troopers to guard alleged drug lords.
The SAF replaced Bureau of Corrections personnel in guarding at least two facilities inside the prison – Building 14 and the maximum security compound – where convicts who still allegedly continue to run their drug operations are detained.
Asked if he agreed with Aguirre’s statements that the SAF had somehow “familiarized” themselves with the environment in Bilibid, Dela Rosa said that he doesn’t “totally deny” this but emphasized that the SAF does not have “total control” of the prison. Some convicted drug personalities, he said, had been moved to either the medium or minimum security compounds, which the SAF does not control.
“How I wish ibalik na ang mga drug lords sa building 14 at SAF ang mag-guwardiya (How I wish they would return the drug lords to Building 14 and allow SAF to guard them),” said Dela Rosa.
The PNP chief said he wants to replace the SAF contingent current deployed in Bilibid.
“Ang kanilang apprehension is baka masisira lang kami dito sir kung andito kami tapos magpatuloy ang drug trade, di namin ma-control (Their apprehension is that their reputations might be ruined if they stay there and the drug trade proliferates and they are unable to control it),” said Dela Rosa.
Aguirre in 2016 requested that SAF take over certain areas in the prison, supposedly to stamp out the continuing drug trade inside.
Curbing illegal drugs was among President Rodrigo Duterte’s key campaign promises during the 2016 elections.
Duterte and his aides – including Aguirre – have accused former justice secretary turned detained senator Leila de Lima of allowing and even encouraging illegal drugs inside Bilibid to prosper. Several convicts, including those who were once detained inside Building 14, were among those who testified against De Lima during congressional probes into allegations against her.
De Lima has since been arrested on drug charges which she claims are false. – Rappler.com