POLICE chief Oscar Albayalde continues to enjoy the trust and confidence of President Duterte despite allegations dragging him to a questionable anti-illegal drug operation in Pampanga almost six years ago.
On his arrival from his Russia trip, Duterte told reporters he would have already asked Albayalde to step down as PNP chief if he no longer trusted his number one police official.
“That he is still there… otherwise, I would have told him to just go out. Wala pa naman.
Just give me proof kasi abogado ako eh (That he is still there… otherwise, I would have told him to just go out. Just give me proof because I am a lawyer),” Duterte replied when asked if he still trusted Albayalde during his arrival press conference at the Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao.
The President challenged Albayalde’s accusers to provide solid evidence against the beleaguered general as he shrugged off calls for the PNP chief to resign or go on early retirement.
Senators have called for the resignation or early retirement of Albayalde after his name was dragged into the controversial buy-bust operation held by 13 Pampanga police officers on November 2013 at a house inside the Woodbridge Subdivision in Lakeshore Mexico.
Albayalde at the time was the Pampanga police provincial director.
The Police Regional Office 3 had ordered the dismissal of the 13 cops, but the decision was revised in 2016 to a one-rank demotion after Albayalde, according to Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino, allegedly intervened on behalf of his former men.
Albayalde has denied the allegations and said that “internal politics” was behind the “recycling” of the ninja cops issue.
Duterte said he needs solid proof first that Albayalde was really on the take or involved in drug trafficking. He added Albayalde is entitled to the constitutional clause on the presumption of innocence.
He said guilt is personal and he prefers to see all proof evidence first before he could condemn anyone or otherwise.
“I could not just do it in a knee jerk. I have to follow procedural due process and allow him time to answer. The right to be heard, it’s given to the criminals, to the kidnappers, it should also be given to a general of the Philippine National Police. Because under the laws, we are all equal,” Duterte said.
Duterte said he will wait for the report of Interior and Local Government Eduardo Año who is already investigating the allegations against Albayalde and looking into the presence of alleged ninja cops in the police organization.
“I approve or disapprove with finality once it reaches my office,” he said.
Albayalde reiterated “internal politics” was at play in the revival of the ninja cops issue, raising the ante that his retirement set next month might have something to do with the recent developments.
Albayalde hinted that Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, a former CIDG chief, could be rooting for someone to replace him as the next PNP chief.
In an interview over dzMM, Albayalde said his detractors have been trying to discredit him so that President Duterte will not pick the police officer that he will endorse as his replacement when he retires on November 8.
“Meron kaming tinatawag na internal politics. Ito ang nakikita kong motibo dahil hindi ko alam kung merong ine-endorso si Mayor Magalong although lagi niyang pinipilit ay wala (We have what we call internal politics. This is the only motive that I see because I don’t know if Mayor Magalong is endorsing someone to replace me as PNP chief, although he always denies that),” Albayalde said.
It was Magalong who exposed the names of the 13 Pampanga ninja cops during the Senate hearing on anomalies inside the Bureau of Corrections. Magalong was quick to stress to senators that Albayalde was the Pampanga chief at the time the questionable buy bust operation took place.
Albayalde, on the other hand, accused Magalong of being envious as the latter has not been appointed PNP chief, an accusation denied by the Baguio City mayor.
During last week’s Senate hearing, Senate President Vicente Sotto III clarified that the issue on Albayalde and the ninja cops was not the main issue being heard at the Senate.
The ninja cops issue came out after Magalong’s testimony of illegal activities inside the BuCor which was eventually connected to illegal activities of policemen.
Albayalde said that once he endorses a police official as his replacement, he said that will now be considered a “kiss of death” as he is now being portrayed as a protector of rogue cops.
“I hope hindi nagpapagamit si Gen. Magalong dito (I hope that Gen. Magalong won’t allow himself to be used by other people),” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Albayalde should consider retiring a month early, if only to save the institution’s reputation.
“Baka dapat i-consider niya ‘yung early retirement. Sabihin niya, without admitting anything… dahil sa nadungisan ang prestige at imahe ng PNP dahil dito (Maybe he should consider early retirement. He could say, without admitting anything… because the PNP’s prestige and image has been sullied),” Drilon said.
Lacson, on the other hand, said what Albayalde should do with his remaining month in the PNP is to act against the alleged “ninja cops” even without having to go beyond the findings of the Senate committees.
“Ipakita niya na hindi niya pinoprotektahan, hindi niya kino-cover up sa pamamagitan ng isang review. Pwede niya ipag-utos, review-hin ang mga dokumento. ‘Di naman kailangan siguro ipatawag pa ang panibagong testigo (He should show he is not protecting, he is not covering things up through a review. He can order it, a review of the documents. There is probably no need to call for a new witness),” Lacson said.
Albayalde said he has ordered the Internal Affairs Service to reinvestigate the administrative case against the 13 alleged ninja cops led by Police Maj. Rodney Baloyo. – With Raymond Africa and Vince Nonato