MANILA - Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa on Tuesday defended the deployment of Special Action Force (SAF) officers at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City after reports that some of them were in cahoots with drug lords inside the penitentiary, purportedly allowing the resurgence of the drug trade.
In a press conference in Camp Crame, Dela Rosa said he wants his men to be relieved of the responsibility of guarding Bilibid as it may tarnish their reputation since they have no control over drug lords jailed at the facility.
He said even the SAF Director wanted his men out of the NBP.
"Di naman natin totally dine-deny yan no at hindi tayo nagmamalinis. Pero pag kinausap naman natin ang SAF contingent doon, kinausap ko ang SAF Director, sila nga mismo rin gusto nang umalis doon dahil wala silang complete control doon sa Bilibid drug lords 'di ba," he said.
(We're not totally denying that nor are we pretending to be clean. But if you talk to the SAF contingent there, the SAF director, they themselves want out because they do not have complete control of the Bilibid drug lords, right?)
SAF commandos took over NBP's security in July 2016 following allegations that prison guards and several top officials were colluding with jailed drug lords.
Before the arrival of PNP's elite commandos, the crowded prison was guarded by Bureau of Corrections guards.
Dela Rosa explained that high-profile convicts linked to drugs- including those investigated at a legislative inquiry last year- used to be detained in Building 14 and have been moved to the maximum security compound.
SAF now guards both areas, but Dela Rosa said some of these "drug lords" have been moved to the medium and minimum security compounds, which the police do not control.
"Gusto ko lang ipaalam sa inyo na hindi kami totally nagma-manage sa Bilibid. Ang ginuguwardiyahan lang ng SAF doon ang maximum [security compound] at Building 14. Kung ang mga drug lord doon sa Building 14 inilipat sa maximum o minimum, wala nang control ang SAF doon," he said.
(I just want you to know that we are not totally managing Bilibid. SAF is only guarding maximum [security compound] and Building 14. If the drug lord in Building 14 is moved to the maximum or minimum [security compound], SAF would not have control there.)
"Kung meron mang pumasok na mga contraband doon like gadgets, cellphones, laptop computers, hindi na masisita ng SAF yan kasi hindi na nila mako-control ang maximum at minimum [security compound]. Sana ako, how I wish, ibalik na ang mga drug lords sa Building 14 at SAF ang magguguwardiya," he added.
(If contraband like gadgets, cellphones and laptop computers get in there, SAF would not be able to apprehend them because they do not control the maximum and minimum [security compound]. How I wish they would bring the drug lords back to Building 14 and SAF will guard them.)
For now, the PNP Chief said he wants to replace all PNP-SAF personnel assigned at the national penitentiary.
"Gusto ko palitan nang buo dahil sila rin, ang kanilang apprehension, 'baka masisira lang kami dito Sir.' 'Magpapatuloy ang drug trade na yan at hindi namin mako-control, masisira lang kami dito, you better relieve us here'," Dela Rosa said.
(I want to replace them entirely because they also have an apprehension: 'We might be destroyed here, sir.' 'That drug trade will continue and we will not be able to control it, we will be destroyed here, you better relieve us here.')
Dela Rosa added that the PNP-SAF was short of manpower due to the Marawi siege and the guarding of the Mindanao region, where martial law remains in place.
Government troops, among them soldiers and police commandos, have been engaged in firefights with Islamic State-linked terrorists in Marawi City for more than a month now.
"They are very much engaged sa giyera sa Marawi, meron pa tayong binabantayan na problema sa Zamboanga Peninsula, Central Mindanao. Talagang SAF [is] overstretched."
(They are very much engaged in the war in Marawi, and we are also monitoring problems in Zamboanga Peninsula, Central Mindanao. SAF is really overstretched.)