PNP SAF mans Bilibid, seizes contraband

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Several cellphone signal boosters, cash amounting to P200,000 and sachets of suspected shabu were among the contraband items seized by the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP SAF) on its first day of manning the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City Wednesday.

SAF troopers found the contraband as they scoured Building 14 of the maximum security compound where high-profile convicted drug lords are being held.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said one of the signal boosters was found inside the hut of Peter Co, one of the drug lords named by President Rodrigo Duterte as part of the Chinese drug triad operating in the country.

“Mabuti nga nakakuha pa tayo ng ganito. Ang balita ko, porke nalaman nila na nagpe-prepare na ang SAF, nailipat na nila sa ibang selda ang mga inaangatan. Kita mo, kahit isang cellphone wala,” Aguirre told reporters who accompanied him.

[Translation: It’s a good thing that we were able to recover this. From what I heard, since they learned that the SAF was preparing, they moved their gadgets to other cells. See, there is not even one cellphone here.]

Aguirre said SAF troopers will temporarily take over security operations, including guard duties, at the NBP, while Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) personnel undergo retraining as part of an “internal cleansing.” Several guards also will be investigated for allegedly allowing contraband items into the prison.

He said the deployment of the SAF troopers was approved by the President.

The SAF is a specialized anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit but could also be assigned other tasks by higher authorities.

PNP Chief Ronald Dela Rosa said the priority task of the SAF troopers deployed at the NBP is to prevent communications equipment from entering the prison.

Dela Rosa said the NBP has long been serving as the “command center” of drug operations in the country.

During their visit to the NBP on Wednesday, Dela Rosa and Aguirre summoned three convicted big time drug lords – Peter Co, JB Sebastian, and Herbert Colangco.

To avoid developing familiarity with inmates, Aguirre said SAF troopers may be replaced by Philippine Marines after one to three months.

Death threats

Dela Rosa earlier said some drug lords inside Bilibid have raised millions of pesos as bounty on his head and on Duterte.

Aguirre also said that convicted drug lords shelled out P100 million to bribe him and another P50 million to use as reward money for killing him.

Both Dela Rosa and Aguirre refused to identify those behind the assassination plots.

“Pati presidente, secretary of justice, chief PNP pagbantaan. Sinong capable ng ganong daring moves, daring threats?” Dela Rosa said.

[Translation: Even the president, justice secretary, PNP Chief were threatened. Who is capable of these daring moves, daring threats?]

“Akala nila nabibili lahat sa pera. Akala nila, lahat may katumbas sa pera. Akala nila. Kahit dalhan mo ako ng isang buong Bilibid na pera, pag ika'y lumaban pa rin sa akin, papatayin pa rin kitang drug lord ka,” Dela Rosa warned.

[Translation: They thought everything can be bought. They thought everything has a price. That’s what they thought. Even if you fill up the Bilibid with money, if you fight me, I will kill you, you drug lord.]

Investigation underway

Meanwhile, Aguirre said a drug lord and a bagman have agreed to testify against two senior police officials allegedly involved in illegal drugs operations.

He said the drug lord from southern Metro Manila and the bagman asked to be placed under the witness protection program.

He added authorities are now gathering evidence for the filing of criminal charges against former Region 6 Director Bernardo Diaz, former NCRPO Director Joel Pagdilao, former QCPD Director Edgardo Tinio, retired Chief Superintendent Vicente Loot, who is now mayor of Daan Bantayan, and former Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo. The five were earlier named by Duterte as protectors of drug syndicates.