PHILIPPINE National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald de la Rosa defended members of his elite troops against allegations that they were now part of the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
At the same time, however, de la Rosa said that he had ordered the PNP Directorate for Investigative and Detective Management (DIDM) and the Directorate for Intelligence (DI) to look into the claims by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd that some of the men from the Special Action Force (SAF) deployed to the NBP were now engaged in illegal drugs.
He said this may be due to their familiarity with the inmates in the prison facility under the Bureau of Corrections.
“We will find out in the investigation if some [SAF troopers] are really involved, they will face the consequences and I will initiate actions immediately, but for now, I must tell you with an open heart that I don’t have any single speculations to the SAF here,” de la Rosa told reporters in a chance interview on Wednesday after visiting the NBP to check on the SAF.
“It is not that I am dispensing them (SAF). Personally, as a leader, as the father of PNP, my full trust is still with them, that they are not involved [with illegal drugs]but if the investigation will be released, I will launch further actions [to the troopers],” he added.
The SAF were deployed in Bilibid in 2016 and were supposed to stay for three to six months after which they would be replaced by Marines.
However, the Marines’ rotation of command did not happen because the military unit was busy fighting the remaining Maute terrorists in Marawi City.
Even before the SAF took over the jail security in 2016, the SAF director has suggested to the PNP chief himself to pull out the police commandos from the national penitentiary for fear of accusations that may be hurled against them.
But according to de la Rosa, he requested President Rodrigo Duterte to withdraw the SAF and immediately have the Marines take charge of security.
“We (me and Duterte) already talked with each other. I lightly mentioned that to the President himself…he just asked me if what do I recommend and I replied that the Marines should substitute the SAF to avoid any hearsays because I don’t the PNP to be wrecked [by these allegations],” he said.
Aguirre has not presented any evidence that would show the SAF’s involvement with the drug trade inside the national penitentiary. De la Rosa said he would still need to have a word with the justice chief.
De la Rosa expressed his willingness to recall the SAF from Bilibid so that the police commandos would be able to exercise their skills on the battleground, especially in Marawi City, and not just by guarding a correctional facility.
“I really want to replace them with another [police]unit because their skills will be nothing if it will not be used on the ground. In Marawi, [the government]is in need of urban warfare experts,” he said.
“For the SAF this is their bread and butter, the urban warfare, fighting in ubran terrain, that’s what they are good at so I prefer that they will be deployed there than just guarding here [in Bilibid],” the PNP chief added.
In August 2016, allies of the administration, most especially from the House of Representatives and Aguirre himself alleged that Sen. Leila de Lima was involved in the illegal drug trade in Bilibid during her tenure as chief of the Department of Justice.
De Lima is now detained at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame on drug charges.