POLICE chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde yesterday decried what he claimed was a seeming “conspiracy” to pin him down in relation to a questionable November 2013 drug bust operation in Mexico, Pampanga.
Albayalde quickly complained that “everybody is ganging up on me” after a former regional police chief claimed that the former told him that he got “a little” of the illegal drugs seized in the Nov. 29, 2013 buy-bust operation.
During a hearing of the Senate justice and blue ribbon committees yesterday, former Central Luzon police chief Gen. Rudy Lacadin recounted a supposed phone conversation regarding the investigation on the drug raid conducted six years ago.
Before his testimony, Lacadin told senators: “As a friend, it pains me to give a statement that might affect the integrity of a fellow officer.” He said he and Albayalde were partners in a water business.
Lacadin said that when he was looking into the controversial drug operation, Albayalde called him and inquired if it was true that he was investigating the case.
“There was a time that during the investigation… he called me up. (He said) ‘Sir, paring naimbestigahan ninyo raw kami,’” Lacadin told a Senate hearing.
Lacadin recalled having told Albayalde: “Yes Oca, I cannot inform you na nagko-conduct ako ng investigation, but if you have nothing to hide, wala naman kayong dapat katakutan.”
Lacadin told senators he was not sure if what Albayalde said next was a joke.
“Sabi niya, I don’t know if he’s joking, ‘Actually, Sir, kaunti lang ang napunta sa akin diyan (He said, I don’t know if he’s joking, ‘Actually, sir, only a little of it went to me),” Lacadin said.
However, he could not remember when the phone conversation took place.
Asked by Sen. Panfilo Lacson to clarify the context of the supposed exchange, Lacadin said: “The premise of the conversation was on the investigation that I was conducting at that time.”
The conversation supposedly revolved around the buy-bust operation involving 13 Pampanga policemen, who were Albayalde’s subordinates as then acting provincial police chief.
The policemen, led by then provincial intelligence chief Lt. Col. Rodney Raymundo Baloyo, have been found to have only declared 38 of the 200 kilograms of shabu (crystal meth) they seized in Mexico town.
They also supposedly received a P50-million bribe from suspect Johnson Lee to let him go and arrest a fall guy named Ding Wenkun.
Sen. Richard Gordon, the committees’ chairman, said Lacadin submitted a sworn affidavit.
When Gordon asked why Lacadin did not tell anyone about the supposed conversation, the latter said, “It will be his word against mine.”
The testimony prompted Albayalde to complain: “I’m being crucified already. All of a sudden, after six years, bigla pala akong may ganun (I’m suddenly being dragged).”
Albayalde bemoaned a “conspiracy” against him and argued: “It’s very unlikely naman na General Lacadin ay sasabihan ko siya (It’s very unlikely that I will say it to Gen. Lacadin).”
He reiterated he was never charged in connection with the questionable drug-bust operation.
“Hindi ko po alam kung ano ‘yung against niya sa akin, pero kung sabihin mong sinabi ko ‘yun, ang tanong ko uli, why was I not charged? (I do not know what he has against me, but if you say that I said that, my question is, why was I not charged?)” Albayalde said.
Former Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief and now-Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong continued to criticize Albayalde during the inquiry.
“Someone is lying. It is not Gen. Lacadin. It is not the police officers. Someone here is lying. Siya po (It is him),” Magalong said as he pointed his finger at Albayalde.
Albayalde had been dragged into the “ninja cop” controversy, after Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director-General Aaron Aquino, Lacadin’s successor, testified last week that the former called him up between July and December 2016 regarding the recommended dismissal of Baloyo and the 12 other Pampanga cops.
Aquino said Albayalde asked him not to implement the November 2014 dismissal order pending the resolution of the appeal filed by Baloyo’s team. Albayalde supposedly reasoned out, “Mga tao ko sila (These are my men).”
Albayalde yesterday conceded that his call was “probably… very inappropriate,” although he insisted he was only looking after the families of his former subordinates.
He also took exception to descriptions that the Pampanga policemen were his “bata,” which literally means children but also refers to loyal henchmen.
Albayalde said he did not handpick Baloyo to be the provincial intelligence chief, and would have installed Supt. Raquel Linggayu if the position was not occupied.
“When I was assigned in Pampanga, wala akong bitbit. Just to make things clear, kasi parang may notion na bitbit ko ang mga tao na ito from the very beginning,” he said (When I was assigned in Pampanga, I brought nobody. Just to make things clear, because there was a notion that I brought these people along from the very beginning),” Albayalde said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, meanwhile, bristled at criticisms by some officials of the executive department that the inquiry had become political.
It may be noted that Albayalde was appointed PNP chief by President Duterte, who claimed to be against illegal drugs and had led a controversial anti-narcotics campaign marked by widespread killings and police abuses.
Sotto said the inquiry’s shift towards Albayalde’s alleged involvement in the “ninja cops” controversy “does not have anything to do with the drug war of the present administration.”
“We want to clear the air also that this has been turned into a political scenario. Definitely, you are completely wrong when you say that, because the events that have been unearthed transpired in 2013,” Sotto said.
“The blue ribbon can convene for an inquiry to find out how much you bought your ball pen
if you are a public official. That’s how it is. So for those who are not familiar with the Senate rules, my message is that: Zip it,” he said.
Sotto did not name the official he was complaining about, but it may be recalled that presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Friday said: “What I do not like about the Senate investigation, I have to say my piece, I cannot even understand why they are making it seem to appear that the administration is failing in the drug war.”
Meanwhile, also during yesterday’s hearing, the Gordon committees cited Senior Police Officer 1 Ronald Santos, one of the 13 implicated policemen, in contempt for failing to appear in the hearing.
It was Lacson who moved for Santos to be cited in contempt.
“Ronald Santos is very important in this case; we’ve been trying to get him,” Gordon said.
“He is in contempt and we hereby order his arrest so that he could be brought here in person.”
Last Thursday, Baloyo was cited in contempt and ordered detained in the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City for giving “evasive” answers during the inquiry.
The inquiry originally revolved around alleged anomalies in the implementation of the 2013 law that expanded the good conduct time allowances which prisoners may avail of to reduce their sentences.
In an interview before the start of the Senate hearing, Aquino told reporters
he had increased the security personnel for his family following his testimony at the Senate probe.
Aquino lamented that because of his revelations at the chamber, his family is now “not living a usual life.”
“I increased their security, nagdagdag ako. ‘Yung anak ko hindi na makalabas. My eldest told me she is not living a life. Sabi ko sa kanila bear with it, talagang ganito ang nangyayari,” he said.
He added: “This was the hardest job I had, dumadami ang kaaway ko e.”