MANILA, Philippines – Like weeds that keep growing back, narcotics trade has again sprouted from the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) a year after the Duterte administration carried out its anti-drug war campaign, which culminated last February in the arrest and imprisonment of Sen. Leila de Lima, who was tagged by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez as the country’s “number one drug lord.”
Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said his office had received reports about the resurgence of illegal drug business inside the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa City allegedly involving inmates, one drug personality, who was also earlier linked to the trade, and some members of the elite Philippine National Police-Special Action (PNP-SAF).
SAF troopers began guarding the high-security NBP in July last year. According to Aguirre, some members of the second SAF contingent that replaced the first group after three months and who have been watching over the NBP for more than six months now are the ones allegedly involved in the narcotics trade with inmates.
“After three months…pinalitan, mahigit na anim na buwan na. ‘Yan ang iniiwasan namin na magkaroon ng familiarity, ng lagayan between inmates and SAF troopers. Pero sa katagalan ng panahon, nagiging magkakilala na rin at nagkakaro’n ng interaction. Dapat no touch policy nga ‘yan eh,” Aguirre said on Tuesday, July 4, during an interview with radio dzMM.
[The first contingent was replaced after three months with the second contingent that has been there for over six months now. That’s what we are avoiding, to have familiarity, bribery between inmates and SAF troopers. But in the long run, they become acquaintances and interaction follows. There should have been a no-touch policy.]
The DOJ chief said the second SAF contingent should have been replaced by Marines but the rebellion in Marawi City made the latter unavailable thus a third SAF group would instead be assigned to the NBP by the fourth week of July.
Aguirre said the revival of drug trade at the NBP was not as big as before. “Bagong operasyon, nag-uumpisa pa lamang. I want to nip this resurgence in the bud.”
He said the resurgence was just about 5 to 10 percent of the 75 percent of drug operations in the penitentiary that was wiped out by the Duterte administration.
“I know the problem already. The director general of the NBP agreed with me on what to do,” Aguirre said in an earlier media interview on Monday, adding that the Bureau of Corrections would investigate the illegal drug operations at the NBP and prepare charges against SAF members being linked to the trade.
Meanwhile, PNP chief Gen. Ronald dela Rosa on Monday said the government was gaining ground against illegal drugs trade despite some problems.
Ordinary people consider many streets in Metro Manila safer now than last year, according to Dela Rosa.
The PNP has recorded a total of 3,200 suspected drug suspects killed in 63,926 anti-drug operations while another 86,933 have been arrested for narcotics-related cases, according to a July 3 report by the government-run Philippine News Agency (PNA).
The PNA also said that according to the PNP, a total 1,308,078 drugs users have surrendered to authorities.