MANILA - The elite police Special Action Force has expressed intent to let go of the security in the New Bilibid Prison, nearly a year after it took over the detention facility once swamped by illegal drugs, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said Tuesday.
Aguirre said SAF director Chief Supt. Benjamin Lusad has agreed to detail a third contingent of SAF troopers in NBP this July. However, Lusad also requested for this to be the last batch of policemen who will guard the state penitentiary.
"Nagkausap po kami ni General Lusad last Saturday at sinabi namin na nagkasundo po kaming papalitan itong contingent na ito," Aguirre said in a phone interview with radio DZMM.
"Pero sinabi po niya na 'Sana, Secretary, last na pagbabantay na ito ng SAF.' Gusto na nilang mag-exit after ng last contingent. Inaasahan po namin na ito ay magiging in place in the fourth week of this month, July."
SAF commandos took over NBP's security in July 2016 following allegations that prison guards and several top officials were in cahoots with detained drug lords.
In December, a fresh batch of SAF troopers replaced the first contingent in a move to avoid familiarity between inmates and security forces.
The second batch was supposed to man NBP for several months only before being replaced by the Philippine Marines.
The Marines, however, sent troops to Marawi to help soldiers battling pro-Islamic State militants.
This has allowed current NBP guards to develop familiarity with the detainees, causing the prison's illegal drug trade to resume a few months ago, Aguirre said.
The Duterte administration said last year the NBP-based syndicate controlled up to 75 percent of the illegal drug trade. Aguirre said a mere 5 to 10 percent of the operation has resumed.
The justice secretary said an investigation was underway to determine if police commandos could be charged.
He added that he and Lusad have coordinated with NBP officials to address the issue.