Malacañang said the government would look into the alleged resurgence of the illegal drug trade at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa.
Speaking to reporters, Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said that Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald de la Rosa has spoken with President Rodrigo Duterte about the complete pullout of the Special Action Forces (SAF) troopers.
This came after Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguire 2nd on Monday revealed that he received a report about the resurgence of the illegal drug trade at the NBP which allegedly involved some SAF troopers.
“Philippine National Police Chief Ronald de la Rosa has already talked to the President on the deployment of Marines to replace the SAF personnel in the Bilibid, which was put on hold and it was overtaken by events because of the Marawi rebellion,” Abella said during a press conference.
“Investigation is now underway to probe drug-related activities and collusions, if any, of authorities,” he added.
More than 300 SAF contingents have been deployed at the NBP in 2016 and were supposed to only stay for up to six months before being replaced by the Marines.
However, the Marines have been participating in the ongoing armed conflict in the besieged Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
Asked if Duterte granted permission, Abella sa that the replacement of the SAF troopers would be the decision of de la Rosa.
“That depends on his — that is his call. De la Rosa’s call,” the Palace official said.
Meanwhile, 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.