POLICE chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde allegedly intervened in the case of 13 “ninja cops” from Pampanga, whose dismissal from the PNP was not implemented and the punishment later downgraded to demotion by one rank.
Philippine Drug Enforcement Authority (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino and former Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief Benjamin Magalong, now Baguio City mayor, made the claim during a joint hearing by the Senate justice and blue ribbon committees yesterday.
Albayalde admitted that he called up Aquino when the case was ongoing, but tried to play it down as a “normal” request for a status update.
The case involved Albayalde’s men when he was the acting provincial director of Pampanga.
Thirteen policemen led by then provincial intelligence chief Supt. Rodney Raymundo Baloyo were held liable for failing to account for all the drugs and cash seized in a November 2013 buy-bust operation in Mexico town in Pampanga.
Following the controversial operation, Albayalde was relieved by former PNP chief Alan Purisima in March 2014 on the ground of command responsibility. The 13 police officers, on the other hand, were ordered dismissed on Nov. 14, 2014 for grave misconduct. The policemen got a copy of their dismissal orders on March 2, 2016 and filed an appeal on March 14, 2016.
Aquino told senators that Albayalde’s call took place “between July and December 2016” when they were PNP regional directors for Central Luzon (where Pampanga is located) and Metro Manila, respectively.
At the time, Baloyo and the other policemen’s March 2016 appeal of their dismissal from service was pending.
“Sinabi niya sa akin, sir, for the meantime, baka puwedeng ipa-review muna ‘yan, kasi gusto kong malaman kung ano talaga ang mangyayari sa result ng investigation na iyan (He told me, sir, for the meantime, maybe you could have that reviewed, because I want to know what will really happen to the result of that investigation),” Aquino recounted.
He said he asked Albayalde why he wanted to have the case reviewed.
Albayalde allegedly replied: “Kasi, sir, mga tao ko ‘yan (Because, sir, those are my men).”
Aquino said he told Albayalde that he will ask the chief regional legal officer to review the case.
Aquino’s successor Amador Corpus downgraded the dismissal penalty to demotion by one rank in October 2017.
What triggered the discussion was Magalong’s appeal for Aquino to tell senators what he had already told him and President Duterte in a meeting at the Manila Hotel “last week.”
“I know, Aaron, you are in a tight situation. Bakit hindi mo sabihin kung ano ‘yung sinabi mo sa ‘kin? Sinong kumausap sa ‘yo? (Why don’t you say what you told me? Who talked to you?)” Magalong said.
Albayalde denied having any intention to influence Aquino and noted that the latter was a year ahead of him at the Philippine Military Academy.
“Yes, I asked for the status, only the status,” he said. “I could not possibly influence an RD (regional director) or an upperclassman.”
Defending his call, Albayalde said it was “normal” for the families of his former subordinates to ask him about their status through him.
“But, I never asked for a favor. I was asking for the status. That is the very reason why General Aaron here ordered for the review of the case, which is, I think, normal in the process of PNP,” he said.
This prompted the committees’ chair, Sen. Richard Gordon, to ask if Corpus was Albayalde’s classmate, which the latter confirmed.
Gordon also asked Aquino: “Did you find it appropriate for him to call you? I find it inappropriate.”
Aquino, however, declined to describe Albayalde’s actions as improper.
“He was just asking about the status of the case and the request for the review on this case,” he said.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the criminal case related to the drug raid was still pending automatic review by his office.
“All records are with us. I hope within a month’s a time a resolution will be issued by the DOJ one way or another,” Guevarra told senators.
Besides Baloyo, the other ninja cops first named by Magalong in a September 19 executive session, and identified during Tuesday’s hearing were Senior Insp. Joven de Guzman Jr.; Senior Police Officers 1 Jules Maniago, Donald Roque, Ronald Santos, Rommel Vital, Alcindor Tinio, and Eligio Valeroso; Police Officers 3 Dindo Dizon, Gilbert de Vera, Romeo Guerrero Jr., and Dante Dizon; and Police Officer 2 Anthony Lacsamana.
Magalong told senators during the hearing that Purisima in 2013 instructed him to investigate the policemen, after the latter received intelligence reports that they have simultaneously acquired sports utility vehicles following the questionable raid.
“Sabi niya sa akin, ‘Benjie, imbestigahan mo nga ito. Just recently, may operation sa Pampanga, 30 kilos ng shabu. Biglang nagkaroon ng sasakyan nang sabay-sabay (He told me, ‘Benjie, investigate this. Just recently, there was an operation in Pampanga, 30 kilograms of crystal meth. They suddenly got vehicles at the same time),” Magalong said.
The CIDG’s investigation and reenactment showed the police officers conducted a buy-bust operation in the afternoon of November 29, 2013 in Woodbridge Subdivision, Lakeshore View, Pampanga.
Magalong said a spot report related to the police operation indicated that the police officers seized only 38 kilograms of shabu and some cash and arrested a certain Johnson Lee. The operation was also timed at 4:30 in the afternoon.
But Magalong said accounts from witnesses and a reenactment of what happened on that day showed that 200 kilograms of crystal meth, or shabu, were actually seized, five times greater than the 38 kilograms declared by the policemen.
The shabu, Magalong citing witnesses’ testimony, were placed in an oversized luggage that was carried by at least four people. “Yung witnesses sabi sa sobrang dami ng shabu na nakumpisa, halos apat na tao ang nagbubuhat sa oversized na maleta. Pati ‘yung shabu tumutulo pa. Nu’ng pumasok siya, kitang-kita nakakalat pa ang shabu sa hagdan. It shows there was no proper handling of evidence, according to our witnesses,” he said.
“We were able to establish na around 200 kilos ang nakuha. Ang price noon P5,500 to P6,000 per gram. We found out na bumaha ang drugs sa Pampanga after the operation at bumagsak ang presyo ng shabu sa P4,000 per gram o P4 million per kilogram,” he also said.
The operation, according to witnesses and logbooks by the subdivision’s security guards, was conducted at 10 in the morning, not in the afternoon as indicated in the spot report.
Magalong added that while the policemen arrested a certain Johnson Lee, supposedly the owner of the Woodbridge house, he was able to “escape” and seek help from barangay officials. The barangay executives got suspicious when Lee allegedly offered them money to let him go, prompting them to return him to the Mexico cops.
Magalong said witnesses said it was not Lee whom the team of Baloyo presented during a media briefing but a certain Ding Wenkun, who pretended he was Lee.
Witnesses also told police investigators that one box of cash was also taken from the house. “May dala pang isang box ng pera na palabas na dinadala sa sasakyan at ito ay puno rin,” he said.
Magalong said the box, sized at 24x24x12 inches, was estimated to have contained P10 million cash.
Magalong said they also found out that Lee paid P50 million for his freedom. The police could not say where Lee is now.
Magalong said that “when (then Chief Superintendent Raul) Petrasanta, then Region 3 police director, found out, he immediately relieved (then Senior Superintendent Oscar) Albayade. He immediately conducted an investigation and filed a case against the team of Baloyo.”
The Senate justice and blue ribbon committees will continue the suspended hearing on October 3, Thursday. The police officers named during the hearing have been invited to attend the hearing.