Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald de la Rosa does not believe that Special Action Force (SAF) commandos assigned to the national penitentiary New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) in Muntinlupa City are involved in illegal drugs.
De la Rosa on Wednesday defended his men “with an open heart” after Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd alleged that the SAF commandos guarding the NBP may have links to drug traders.
He, however, said the PNP Directorate for Investigative and Detective Management and the Directorate for Intelligence are probing the allegation .
“We will find out in the investigation if some [SAF troops] are really involved [for which]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 speculation [about the SAF involvement]here,” de la Rosa told reporters in a chance interview after visiting the NBP to check on the SAF commandos.
“Personally, as a leader, as the father of the PNP, my full trust is still with them, that they are not involved [in illegal drugs]but if the investigation will be released [finding that they are], I will launch further actions [against the commandos],” he said.
Aguirre had noted that some of the SAF troops may have been involved in illegal drugs because of their familiarity with inmates in the NBP, which is under the Bureau of Corrections.
He is yet to present evidence to back up his allegation.
The SAF commandos were deployed to the prisons last year and were supposed to stay there for three to six months only and be replaced by the Marines.
This arrangement did not materialize because the Marines were sent to Marawi City to fight terrorists from the Maute Group.
Even before the SAF took over jail security in 2016, the SAF director had suggested to the PNP chief himself to pull out the police commandos from the national penitentiary, fearing issues might be hurled against them.
But according to de la Rosa, he already requested President Rodrigo Duterte to withdraw the commandos and immediately have the Marines take over the prison security.
De la Rosa said the SAF commandos are more needed in Marawi City for their “urban warfare” expertises.
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice (DoJ) has tapped the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate the alleged revival of the illegal drug trade inside the NBP.
Aguirre issued Department Order 457 dated July 4 mandating NBI Director Dante Gierran to conduct the probe.
“We want to get to the bottom of the reported resurgence of the drug trade inside the NBP. We acted after verifying raw information provided by concerned individuals. I have said it before and I will say it again, we shall be relentless in fighting and eradicating the drug menace,” he said in a statement.
Republic Act 10867, or the National Bureau of Investigation Reorganization and Modernization Act, authorizes the President or the DoJ secretary to direct the NBI to probe any crime when public interest so requires.
Aguirre said he had talked to SAF Director Benjamin Lusad about replacing the 300 SAF commandos assigned to the NBP in the “fourth week” of July.
WITH JOMAR CANLAS