Albayalde: Resignation calls a trap

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    POLICE chief Oscar Albayalde yesterday said he will see through his retirement next month as he rejected calls for him to resign for his alleged links to “ninja cops” involved in recycling illegal drugs.

    In several media interviews, Albayalde, who is set to step down on November 8, asserted he still enjoys the full trust and confidence of President Duterte who appointed him as PNP chief in April 2018.

    Albayalde said resigning from his post is tantamount to falling into the trap set by his detractors.

    “I think so, kasi kung wala na ‘yan outright, alam niyo naman ugali ng ating Pangulo, ‘pag talagang ayaw ka na niya, ayaw ka na niya at I think even Sec. Año said na I still enjoy their trust and confidence (I think that I still enjoy the trust and confidence of the President because if he does not trust me anymore, and knowing the character of the President, if he really does not want you anymore, that’s it, you will be kicked out, and I think even Secretary Año said that I still enjoy their trust and confidence),” Albayalde said.

    The embattled PNP top leader said he will wait for the result of the investigation ordered by the President to Interior Secretary Eduardo Año on his supposed connections with ninja cops.

    “I will wait for the President’s decision and will wait for Sec. Año. I think that’s (calls for resignation) a trap so we will just wait for the decision of the President. He is the commander-in-chief anyway, and as he said, he will wait for Sec. Año’s decision,” Albayalde said.

    “Whatever they say, as I have said earlier, I am expendable,” he added.

    Albayalde was placed on the spotlight after Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, a former Criminal Investigation and Detection Group director, claimed during a Senate inquiry last Tuesday that the PNP chief reportedly intervened in the dismissal case of 13 suspected ninja cops from Pampanga.

    In the same hearing, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino said Albayalde called him when he was still the Police Regional Office 3 (Central Luzon) director and asked for an update on the appeal made by the 13 Pampanga policemen who have been ordered dismissed for grave misconduct. At the time the call was made, Albayalde was the chief of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO).

    Aquino, however, told senators he found the request for an update “normal” since the 13 beleaguered policemen were formerly Albayalde’s men when he was the PRO3 director.

    The 13 ninja cops led by Supt. Rodney Raymundo Baloyo, then the Pampanga provincial intelligence branch chief, were held liable for failing to report all the illegal drugs seized during a buy-bust operation in Mexico town in 2013.

    The supposed rogue policemen held an operation against a certain Johnson Lee and confiscated shabu and cash from his house at the Woodbridge Subdivision in Lakeshore, Mexico.

    According to Magalong, the raiding team reported confiscating only 38 kilograms of shabu and returned P100,000 supposedly used as marked money in their spot report. They likewise presented a Chinese national whom they claimed was Lee.

    But a post-operation investigation showed that the shabu recovered from the crime scene actually weighed more than 200 kilos and that the cash found in a box taken from the house amounted to P10 million. The Lee presented by the police officers to the public was not the suspect who was actually caught, but a Chinese fall guy. There were reports that the real Lee was released after paying P50 million for his freedom.

    Magalong told senators that after the questionable buy-bust operation, illegal drugs flooded Pampanga and that the cops involved in the undertaking bought sports utility vehicles almost at the time.

    Albayalde denied he benefitted from the sale of the recycled drugs and that he, too, bought an SUV at the time.

    Albayalde said he was administratively relieved as provincial director of Pampanga after the incident to pave the way for an impartial investigation and not because of command responsibility.

    He said if he was relieved for command responsibility, he, too, could have been charged along with the 13 ninja cops.

    “(But) the investigation came out that no evidence can link me to that operation, wala rin akong liability or command responsibility. Because if you say that person is relieved for command responsibility, dapat meron din siyang parusa (he also should have been penalized),” Albayalde said.

    Albayalde insisted that the call he made to Aquino that time was only for a status check of the dismissal and was not meant in any way to influence Aquino to reconsider the order.

    He shot back at Magalong during the Senate hearing for “putting words into the mouth” of Aquino after the latter repeatedly prodded Aquino to tell the truth on who called him up that time when he was still PRO3 director regarding the case of the 13 ninja cops.

    During the period that the dismissal orders were handed down to the ninja cops, Albayalde said Magalong, who was then the chief of the Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management and later promoted as the deputy chief PNP for operations, also did not act on the dismissal order when he actually could have done so.

    Magalong retired in 2016.

    “As chief of the DIDM, that’s part of his (Magalong’s) job description, to monitor all cases involving police officers. Why did he not implement the (dismissal) order when he was saying that he has been closely monitoring this case?” Albayalde said.

    He said Magalong put malice on the phone call that he made to Aquino when Magalong himself called him years back to ask for a favor, the nature of which he refused to disclose.

    “One time he called me for a little favor. So now he is saying that a call is a bad thing,” he said.

    On another occasion, he said Magalong asked a favor from him to help set up an appointment with then Deputy Director General Ismael Rafanan, who was the former deputy chief PNP for operations during the time of former police chief Jesus Versoza.

    “That’s it and so after that I didn’t know what happened and then later he was able to get back in the mainstream of the PNP…What I am trying to say I really don’t know if he portrays himself as a perfect person or probably also righteous. You should probably ask him,” he said.

    In 2006, Magalong, who was then the Special Action Force 1st battalion commanding officer, and two other officials were charged with grave misconduct for allegedly recruiting police officers to join ouster moves against former president Gloria Arroyo. His superior in the SAF, retired Chief Supt. Marcelino Franco, allegedly led the ouster moves.

    Magalong and his two co-accused were briefly jailed before the charges were dropped.

    After that, Magalong joined the PDEA under the leadership of Dionisio Santiago.

    Magalong made a name in the PNP for his fair investigation of the Mamasapano incident as then CIDG chief, but Albayalde said Magalong’s integrity was already put into question.

    The Mamasapo incident happened in January 2015 in Maguindanao where 44 SAF commandos were butchered by rogue Muslim extremists after the troopers killed Marwan, a regional terrorist.

    “I think this guy is really trying to portray himself as a man of integrity, that’s all. I really do not know what character he has. When he made the Mamasapano report and no less than the president, then former president Pnoy (Benigno Aquino) was charged because of his supposed balanced investigation,” Albayalde said.

    Albayalde questioned the timing of Magalong’s disclosures, especially so that he is scheduled for mandatory retirement on November 8.

    “Kaya ‘yan ang pinagtataka ko ngayon (That’s why I’m wondering), why now? The timing is very questionable,” he said, adding that Magalong is attacking his reputation for personal gains but did not elaborate.

    “If you are trying to say that you are a man of integrity this is the right time that you can prove yourself that you are indeed a man of integrity. This is the right time to shine not on destroying on somebody’s reputation,” he said.

    Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon and justice committees, said Aquino “softened” his testimony on the alleged intervention of Albayalde in the case of the 13 ninja cops.

    In separate interviews, Gordon and Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Aquino privately told them that Albayalde asked for much more than what he eventually divulged under oath in a Tuesday hearing.

    The two senators said Aquino told them that Albayalde supposedly went so far as to ask him not to implement the dismissal of the 13 policemen.

    Aquino during the Tuesday hearing, only testified that Albayalde called him “between July and December 2016” to ask for a “review” of the appeal of Baloyo and his men against their dismissal from service.

    Gordon said he and Magalong were “very disappointed” about how Aquino testified.

    “Mali ‘yun. ‘Yun ang sinasabi ko na lumambot (That’s wrong. That’s why I said he got soft),” he told reporters.

    He also said Aquino told him that he was just “confused” when he gave a more damning disclosure behind the scenes.

    “Sabi niya, ‘nalito ako.’ You’re a general. Hindi ka pwede malito. Pati si General Magalong was very disappointed (He said, ‘I got confused.’ You’re a general. You cannot be confused. Even General Magalong was very disappointed),” Gordon said.

    Similarly, Drilon thought Aquino “became hesitant” to tell the public what happened during the call.

    “Certainly, I am disappointed, because I think he was more forthright when he met with us,” Drilon said.

    But, he gave Aquino some leeway, saying: “I am not prepared to conclude that there was substantial change in the statement.”

    Gordon said Albayalde “should really consider resigning,” but stopped short of issuing the same call for Aquino.

    “It’s up to him. Men of integrity know to do,” Gordon said of Aquino.

    But, he thought the credibility of both generals got tainted. “Nalamatan sila (Their credibility got stained). They have to see their way clear,” he said.

    Drilon, however, noted that Albayalde would only have one more month to serve as PNP chief before retiring on his 56th birthday this November 8.

    “Whatever happens, indeed, his stint as PNP chief is tarnished by this revelation,” Drilon said.

    “Given the tokhang campaign, which has killed thousands of people and supposedly drug dealers, the drug campaign loses its credibility when you hear of these allegations between high-ranking officials of the PNP,” he added.

    Senate President Vicente Sotto III disagreed that Albayalde’s action three years ago will have a bearing on his integrity as the current chief of the police force.

    “Ibang usapan ‘yung nakaraan; hindi natin masabi kung may value or what, ‘di ba? But we are talking about the present situation; wala akong nakikitang masama (The past is a different story; we can’t tell if it has any value or what, can we? But, we are talking about the present situation; I see nothing wrong),” Sotto said.

    He was not willing to blame Albayalde for the fact that Baloyo and his men continued to be in service, saying the National Police Commission should be the one to explain it.

    “Dapat ay tanungin natin ang Napolcom, paano nakabalik yung mga yun (We should ask Napolcom how they were able to return)?” he said. – With Vince Nonato