BESIDES the elite Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police (PNP), battle-tested Marines will also be deployed to the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa, which has allegedly been converted into a “drug hub” by convicted drug lords, a military official said Thursday.
Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Public Affairs Office, made the disclosure after Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre revealed that Marine Maj. Gen. Alexander Balutan was assigned to head the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).
“From the information I gathered from him, and he said this has already been announced, there will be Marines who will be part of those who will be posted as guards to NBP, to the Bureau of Corrections. They will be in tandem or in partnership with the Special Action Force,” Arevalo said.
He said that there will be a shifting of duties between the Marines and the SAF. It will be a monthly rotation, Arevalo added.
He did no say how many Marines will be deployed in the scandal-ridden prison. Arevalo said the figure will be announced by Balutan when he assumes his new post in August.
Arevalo said those who will be deployed to NBP are undergoing training for their specific assignments. He said when Balutan talked to fellow military officers, he told them that the NBP post “is a job nobody wants to take.”
“It’s only the Marines who are willing to take this job, that’s why he took it,” he said.
According to Arevalo, Balutan, who is referred to in the military as “Mandirigma” or Warrior, is retiring from the military service with high esteem, regarded very highly not only in the Marine Corps but the whole AFP.
“General Balutan really is an epitome of the warrior kind of Marine, a warrior in the sense that when he has to accomplish a mission, he accomplishes it. But he is not that kind of warrior who charged indiscriminately. He was called mandirigma because he has gone through so many countless operations and he fought almost all the enemies of the state, from MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front), Abu Sayyaf, NPA (New People’s Army),” Arevalo said.
Aguirre earlier said the government will step up measures to prevent jailed drug lords
from conducting their illicit business behind bars.
He noted that 75 percent of illegal drug trading all over the country was being hatched or transacted inside the NBP.
Aguirre reiterated the government’s plan to replace prison guards with members of the SAF, a proposal he had already discussed with PNP chief Ronaldo “Bato” de la Rosa.
“General Bato de la Rosa is 100 percent behind us. As a matter of fact, he has already made arrangements with the SAF who will be the ones taking over the prison guards and employees so that the old guards and the employees could be relieved for retraining and re-education,” he said.