Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Monday defended the elite Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police against reports of harassment of inmates at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.
Aguirre said the allegations of harassment against the SAF police commandoes could be part of a “misinformation” campaign by several inmates who are disgruntled by the strict implementation of rules by the SAF.
The Justice secretary instead lauded the SAF men guarding the national penitentiary for strict implementation of prison rules.
“They say the SAF are already abusing their power. There is a claim that some SAF men fired shots, hosed inmates—with one of them even punching an inmate who was just asking a question. These are not true,” he said.
“These are actually part of efforts to destroy the integrity of our SAF men. This is not how we know them to be; these are well-disciplined police officers. That’s why I appeal to everyone to give the SAF our full trust and confidence,” he added.
On the other hand, the justice chief said he sees the attacks on the SAF as a good sign.
Aguirre, who exercises administrative supervision over the Bureau of Corrections that supervises the national penitentiary, said he is actually happy to see the resistance of inmates.
“Many [inmates are complaining] because the SAF are very strict [in implementing rules]. But that means that the SAF troopers are effective in doing their duty,” he stressed.
He cited for instance the complaints of inmates on the shortening of visitation hours at the NBP.
“This means the illegal trade there is really affected. Those visitors are the ones usually bringing in contrabands,” he stressed.
NBP chaplain Monsignor Roberto Olaguer bared over the weekend complaints of harassment against the SAF men. Olaguer cited an incident where an inmate greeted a SAF officer with “good evening, sir”—only to be punched in the face in return.
Meanwhile, Aguirre revealed that his office started to verify a report about the existence of a tunnel in the NBP supposedly being used as an underground shabu laboratory by convicted drug lords.
“I’ve already contacted one of the NGOs [non-government organizations] that discovered it. I will be meeting with them within this week for the verification with the use of satellite,” he admitted.
Last Saturday, the SAF guards locked down the NBP and conducted another “Oplan Galugad” at the Quadrant 4 of the maximum-security compound. Sachets of shabu, thousands of pesos and several prohibited items were seized during the raid.