THE PALACE on Thursday said the government would look into the alleged resurgence of the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City under the watch of elite police troopers for nearly a year now.
Speaking to reporters, Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald de la Rosa had asked President Rodrigo Duterte to allow the pullout of Special Action Force (SAF) men from the national penitentiary.
This came after Monday’s revelation by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguire 2nd of a report on the supposed resurgence of the illegal drug trade at the NBP, allegedly involving some SAF troopers.
De la Rosa sought to replace the SAF men with Marines, but this was put on hold because of the May 23 terrorist attack on Marawi City, Abella said during a news conference.
More than 300 SAF men deployed to the NBP since July last year were supposed to stay for just six months, and replaced with Marines, he said. But the Marines are locked in battle with the Maute terrorists at the besieged Marawi City in Lanao del Sur.
“Investigation is now underway to probe drug-related activities and collusions, if any, of authorities,” Abella said.
Asked if Duterte granted the request, the Palace spokesman said the pullout of the SAF troopers still depended on the decision of de la Rosa.
“That depends on his–that is his call. De la Rosa’s call,” the Palace official said.
Abella reiterated that the Duterte government’s war against illegal drugs would be relentless.
“The discovery and neutralization of drug syndicates operating in the national penitentiary is one of the highlight accomplishments of the government’s war against illegal drugs. And the reported resumption of the drug trade and the involvement of SAF in the Bilibid Prison underscored the enormity of the drug problem and the need to destroy the entire drug apparatus to fully succeed in our campaign,” he said.
In a statement last July 4, Aguirre said he had directed National Bureau of Investigation Director Dante Gierran to investigate the alleged return of the drug trade in the Muntinlupa prison, citing information from tipsters.
“We wanted to get to the bottom of the reported resurgence of the drug trade in the NBP. We acted after verifying raw information provided by concerned individuals,” he said.
In February, Aguirre filed charges against his predecessor, Sen. Leila de Lima, and some high-profile inmates for alleged drug trafficking activities in the prison during de Lima’s tenure as Justice chief under the previous Aquino administration.
De Lima claims the cases were trumped up to silence her criticism of the President’s anti-drug war.