Top drug enforcer welcomes SAF commandos
MANILA, Philippines — The current chief of the Philippine National Police’s Drug Enforcement Group (DEG) welcomed the proposal to assign some Special Action Force (SAF) commandos to the police’s main narcotics unit and salvage the credibility of the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.
“Personally, that is a very good suggestion, because we know the untarnished reputation of the SAF. It’s a good direction, way ahead if we will have SAF troopers here at DEG,” DEG director Brig. Gen. Faro Olaguera told reporters in Camp Crame on Friday.
Should this happen, the reassigned police commandos would undergo a two-week retraining to get them familiar with the protocols of antidrug operations as they were originally trained for counterterrorism and urban warfare.
According to Olaguera, the number of relieved DEG personnel grew to 117, or almost 9 percent of its 1,304 personnel, for their involvement in the Oct. 8, 2022 anti-drug operation, which was riddled with controversies.
“This is part of our ongoing internal cleansing. We want only those with spotless records to remain here at DEG,” he said.
DEG personnel have begun to be recalled to the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame to undergo values formation and moral recovery program and other reorientation courses amid discussions to overhaul the controversial anti-drugs unit.
PNP chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. earlier bared the possibility of employing SAF members to be reassigned to the DEG, citing their incorruptible reputation.
Previous PNP chiefs also tapped the SAF to help in fighting and preventing drug trade, particularly in the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City, which authorities noted to be where all drug networks in the country converge.
From July 2016 to December 2020, SAF troopers were deployed at Bilibid to replace jail guards of the Bureau of Corrections who failed to stop corruption and drug trading inside the Bilibid.
The contingent was replaced with a fresh batch every six months to avoid familiarity with the inmates. They were deployed particularly to secure Building 14, where most high-profile convicts were housed.
But a year after their deployment, then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II reported the resurgence of illegal drug trading in Bilibid with men from SAF conspiring with the drug lords there.