BY ASHZEL HACHERO and RAYMOND AFRICA
THE Senate committees investigating the notorious “agaw-bato” scheme have gathered enough information on the so-called “ninja cops” that can guide President Duterte in deciding the fate of police chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde.
Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon and justice committees, made the statement even as Duterte has expressed his continued trust and confidence in Albayalde amid insinuations on his supposed link to rogue cops who conducted a questionable drug bust operation in Pampanga almost six years ago.
Duterte had rebuffed the allegations made against Albayalde during the Senate public hearings and challenged accusers of the PNP top official to present clear proof of his involvement with ninja cops before he can take their word seriously.
“I think we have enough information for the President to make a decision. But I still need General Albayalde to answer questions that need to be answered, to be fair to him. We will not make any conclusion without his answers,” Gordon said.
Gordon said he will schedule a new hearing on the ninja cops issue to give Albayalde another opportunity to respond to senators’ questions and clear his name.
Also, Gordon said the Senate committees have received new evidence which he would like to present in an open hearing.
“We got additional evidence, so we will hold another hearing kung andiyan pa ang mga senador. Meron kaming ilalabas na mga bago (if there still senators here. We will present something new),” he said but declined to elaborate.
He said he will consult with Senate President Vicente Sotto III as to when the next hearing will be held.
Albayalde said everyone should now “move on” from the issue since no less than the President has demanded that solid proof be presented to back the allegations peddled against him.
“I enjoin everyone to move on, now that the President has already spoken,” Albayalde said.
“I am thankful to President Rodrigo R. Duterte and DILG Secretary Eduardo M Año for allowing me the opportunity to be heard in a proper probe body. With their assurance of impartiality and due process, I am ready to face investigation to once and for all clear my name and spare the PNP from further embarrassment and unwanted public opinion created by these internal and external political machinations,” Albayalde said.
He reiterated that no evidence have been presented in the Senate hearings to prove that he directly intervened in the dismissal orders against the 13 Pampanga ninja cops or that he benefited from the proceeds of their unauthorized operation.
“You know it’s very easy to accuse a person and to say anything without any proof, napakadali po niyan (that’s very easy). I hope the Filipino people see this, kita naman (it can be clearly seen),” he said.
Albayalde said he will not engage in a word war with his accusers.
During the series of Senate hearings the past weeks, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, a former chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, and PDEA chief Aaron Aquino, a former Police Regional Office 3 (Central Luzon) director, accused Albayalde of interfering with the dismissal order against the 13 ninja cops and insinuated that he was privy to the cops’ November 2013 operations.
The 13 alleged ninja cops were ordered dismissed by then PRO3 director Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta but the order was downgraded to a one-rank demotion during the time of Amador Corpus as PRO3 director. Corpus is now the CIDG chief.
Albayalde had admitted calling Aquino to check on the status of the case against the 13 rogue cops but denied it was meant to block the dismissal orders.
Magalong has told reporters he had been advised by well-meaning friends and contacts that gun-for-hires have already been contracted to silence or scare him from further talking.
Albayalde said Magalong can apply for police security to address death threats he has been receiving since he testified at the Senate.
Gordon said he still wants to grill Albayalde and ask him why he did not oppose the order placing him on floating status after his men conducted the illegal drug bust on the house of one Johnson Lee in Mexico, Pampanga on November 2013. Albayalde at the time was the provincial director of the Pampanga police.
Gordon also cited the testimony of Magalong as well as the disclosure of Aquino that Albayalde called the latter to stop the dismissal of the 13 policemen led by Maj. Ronnie Baloyo who conducted the anti-drug operation.
As to evidence directly linking the PNP chief to the narcotics trade, Gordon explained there are many ways to be involved and one is by negligence.
“Negligence, ibig sabihin wala kang ginawa,” he said, adding the testimony of the witnesses in the Senate inquiry have created doubts on the integrity of Albayalde.
NEW NINJA COPS PROBE
The Department of Justice has created a three-member panel of prosecutors to reinvestigate the complaints filed by the CIDG against former Pampanga province intelligence chief Major Ronnie Baloyo and 12 other Mexico-based police officers.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Alexander Suarez will head the panel with Assistant State Prosecutors Josie Christina Dugay and Gino Paulo Santiago as members.
‘The Special Panel of Prosecutors is hereby directed to immediately conduct the necessary hearings and resolve the case within 30 days from date hereof. It warranted by evidence, the Special Panel of Prosecutors is further directed to file the corresponding information before the appropriate court,” Guevarra said.
The 13 erring policemen are facing charges for violation of sections 27 (misappropriation), 21 (planting of evidence) and 32 (custody and disposition of evidence) which were all earlier dismissed by a DOJ investigative panel and is subject to an automatic review by the Office of the Secretary of Justice.
Albayalde, on the other hand, said he has tapped the Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management “to take the lead in reviewing the administrative cases involving the so-called ninja cops in coordination with the PNP-Internal Affairs Service to initiate possible summary dismissal proceedings against these errant personnel.”
He said the 13 alleged ninja cops were ordered to be reassigned to their respective personnel holding and administrative units to ensure their availability for the probe.
He assured the reinvestigation will be fair and impartial. “No stone will be left unturned and there will be no sacred cows in this investigation. I am serving notice to all PNP units and personnel to fully cooperate with the Department of Justice for the reopening or review of the case, as well as the inquiry by the different PNP investigating bodies by making available all necessary records that will be required, including testimonies of personnel,” Albayalde said.