THE decision of former police chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde to resign and his threat to bring to court his accusers are smokescreens designed to allegedly cover-up his lies and stop the “ninja cops” scandal from further blowing up.
Former PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief and now Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong made the statement yesterday following Albayalde’s decision on Monday to step down from his post ahead of his retirement next month.
Magalong said Albayalde was pushed to the wall and was left with no choice but to step down as top official of the PNP because he had lost the moral ascendancy to lead the institution.
He said that amid revelations that he had attempted to block the dismissal of 13 rogue cops involved in the dubious November 2013 drug raid in Pampanga, police officials and personnel have been apathetic to Albayalde.
“Kung titingnan mo dyan sa PNP, wala na siya, ina-avoid na siya. Nag-e-evade na ‘yung mga tao ‘pag nasasalubong siya… Kapag may mga event wala na ring sumasama sa kaniya, nararamdaman na rin niya na lumalayo ‘yung mga tao sa kaniya (Inside the PNP, people have started to avoid him. They evade him when they see him. No one wants to join him anymore in PNP events. He felt the personnel’s indifference),” Magalong said in an interview with GMA News Online.
“It only shows he does not have the moral high ground anymore. His only choice was to leave,” he said.
Likewise, Magalong claimed the ex-PNP chief’s threat to file charges against his accusers was intended to cover-up his guilt and give his lies the semblance of being true.
“It’s deception to portray we are the ones lying and not him. If I were in his shoes, it’s the best course of action I will have to take,” Magalong said in a separate interview with ABS CBN News Channel’s (ANC) Early Edition.
Albayalde had threatened to sue Magalong, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino and retired police official, Rudy Lacadin for telling senators that he supposedly tried to block the implementation of a dismissal order against the team of Lt. Col. Rodney Raymundo Louie Baloyo for the 2013 anti-narcotics operation carried out on the residence of a suspected Chinese drug lord in Mexico, Pampanga.
Baloyo and his men, all assigned at the Pampanga province police office at the time, were ordered dismissed by the PNP-CIDG after an investigation into the drug raid showed that they stole millions worth of confiscated illegal drugs and accepted a P50 million bribe for the release of the alleged drug lord. Albayalde was their direct supervisor at the time, being the Pampanga police office chief.
The dismissal order was never implemented, and instead the corrupt police officers were merely demoted by one rank.
Aquino had told senators that Albayalde called him sometime in 2016 and asked him not to implement the dismissal order while Lacadin testified that when the former PNP chief called him while he was investigating the case, the latter told him that he got “only a little” of the drug loot.
Albayalde had denied the allegations and cried out political persecution, pointing to internal politics which he said might be related to his impending retirement next month.
Magalong said: “At the end of the day, it’s all about the truth. When everything is laid out and spelled out, the truth will come out that we are the ones who are actually telling the truth.”
LIVES IN DANGER
Magalong warned that unless they cooperate and start spilling the beans on their cohorts, the lives of the 13 ninja cops are in danger.
“I hope that those involved in the 2013 drug bust in Mexico, Pampanga, will finally realize that they are on their own,” Magalong said in the same ANC interview.
“And I hope that some of them start talking unless they end up dead like the other civilian agents who also involved in that drug operation,” he also said, as he noted that the civilian agents who were involved in the operation “are already dead, they were killed. Anything can happen.”
Magalong said the new PNP leadership should ensure the safety of the police officers now that they are under their custody.
Twelve of the Pampanga cops have been ordered “confined” at Camp Crame by Albayalde at the height of the Senate investigation into the ninja cops scandal. They are now under the custody of the Personnel Holding and Accounting Unit (PHAU) so they can all be readily available when needed during investigations.
Baloyo remains detained at the National Bilibid Prison where he was ordered confined by the Sen. Richard Gordon after he was cited in contempt by the Senate blue ribbon and justice committees.
Magalong said: “They [policemen] have to make sure that nothing happens to them.
Because only one is in jail, only Baloyo. The rest are still performing functions as policemen or [on] floating status.”
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said Albayalde had wanted to relinquish his post since Wednesday last week even before he attended the ninth Senate hearing into the ninja cops issue.
Año reiterated the embattled former PNP chief was not forced to quit his post by higher officials.
In an interview over GMA News TV, Año said he stopped Albayalde from quitting last Wednesday and instead advised him to think things over before making a final decision.
“That was Wednesday last week when Gen. Albayalde signified his intention, that he was contemplating to give up his position. I told him to think about it over and over. After this Wednesday hearing, then you decide what you really want),” Año said.
He said he also informed President Duterte of Albayalde’s decision to quit after the Cabinet meeting in Malacañang last Friday.
Initially, the DILG secretary said the President wanted that Albayalde be given retirement honors on October 29, or 10 days earlier than his actual retirement date on November 8 since Duterte will attend the Asean Summit scheduled on the last week of October to early November.
Año said he and the President discussed the possibility of having Albayalde go on terminal leave until he retires but Duterte said this will depend on the outcome of the Senate investigation.
“The President said that if there are pressing evidence against Albayalde in the Senate hearings, then he will let Albayalde go,” he added.
Last Saturday, Año said Albayalde talked with him again and informed him of his final decision.
“We had a man to man talk last Saturday and after that, he gave me a letter and said, ‘Sir, I am formally submitting this letter to you. This is my intention to relinquish my post’, he said. So I said, okay),” Año said, stressing: “He was not forced to resign because the President confided to me that he still trusts Gen. Albayalde.”
NINJA COPS NOT
YET OFF THE HOOK
Año said the investigation against Albayalde and the 13 ninja cops by the Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management is still ongoing as he hinted that new cases can be filed against those who will be found liable based on the testimonies given during the Senate hearings.
Año said the rogue police officers can still be held liable for switching suspects and improper handling of evidence.
He also said administrative cases can be filed against the 13 ninja cops based on the evidence presented before the Senate hearings.
In Albayalde’s case, the PNP can file the administrative case against the former PNP chief before his November 8 retirement. Otherwise, he said, the PNP will no longer have any jurisdiction over Albayalde.
On the criminal aspect of the case, Año said the Department of Justice is reviewing the case to determine what cases will be filed against all those involved.
“The possible criminal cases against the ninja cops are being reviewed by the DOJ. The principle of double jeopardy will not apply here because the case has not yet been tried before any court,” he said.
PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa yesterday assured there will be no whitewash in the investigation of Albayalde’s alleged links to the ninja cops.
“We assure you it’s 100 percent graft-free, bias-free investigation. I am a lawyer so I should know,” Gamboa told ANC.
Gamboa admitted that the ninja cops issue had adversely affected the PNP’s war on drugs but clarified that the case is an isolated one.
He said police officers have also expressed differing views on the controversy.
He said the biggest challenge the PNP will now confront is how to win back the trust and confidence of the people.
Gamboa presided over a command conference in Camp Crame yesterday with members of the PNP command group, directorial staff, regional directors and directors of National Support Units where he reiterated his guidance to continue the implementation of ongoing programs and operational thrusts, particularly on internal cleansing.
“This is a temporary sequence of events that’s going to happen in the next few days. This is a transition but we should not be remiss of our job. Let’s do our job, you know your job – on a daily basis what you’re supposed to do, and let not the other controversies affect us.
Let us continue to work to serve and to protect our people,” Gamboa said.
Gamboa said the PNP will come up with a briefing on the PNP internal cleansing program since 2016 to inform the public how serious they are in running after rogues in uniform.
“Much has been done already in our internal cleansing program,” he added.
PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said it will be to the best interest of the police force if President Duterte appoints a permanent PNP chief the soonest time due to limitation on the powers of an OIC.
Banac said as OIC, Gamboa has limited authority to sign official documents, transfer of appointments and disbursement of funds, among others.
NO MORE HOUSE PROBE
The House committee on dangerous drugs will no longer engage in a separate investigation into the “ninja cops” controversy in deference to the Senate Blue Ribbon committee’s ongoing probe.
“I’m already okay with the Senate investigation,” said Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, panel chair.
Barbers also welcomed Albayalde’s resignation, saying “it’s about time he considered doing it early in order to give the investigation a better chance of impartiality and (avoid) possible cover ups although it will not leave him off the hook in the ninja cops issue.”
For his part, Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., president of the National Unity Party (NUP), said Albayalde still enjoys a presumption of innocence under the 1987 Constitution.
“However, the ongoing back-to-back Senate hearings, including media reports have already created a public perception that Gen. Albayalde is guilty. The situation has been adversely affected by the damaging statements of Gen. Magalong and Gen. (Rudy) Lacadin,” he said.
“These circumstances I think compelled Gen. Albayalde to relinquish his post effective (Monday) as PNP Chief considering the adverse public perception regarding the allegations imputed against him,” Barzaga added.
In an interview, Sen. Christopher Go said he was not surprised with Albayalde’s decision to step down.
“I knew Gen. Albayalde was already under a lot of pressure, so I was no longer surprised when I heard that he had resigned. Gen. Albayalde would have found it hard to work and lead the 165,000-strong PNP force with this baggage on his back. Now they can all go back to work,” Go said.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and concurrent presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the Duterte administration will enforce the law, including the possible filing of charges against Albayalde, if evidence warrants.
“The President is the number one enforcer of the law, so if there is evidence against any wrongdoing, then it behooves the government to file and prosecute,” Panelo said in reaction to the statement of Gordon that the may endorse the filing of administrative charges against Albayalde and that it will be a national disappointment if Malacañang fails to act on the recommendation. – With Raymond Africa, Wendell Vigilia and Jocelyn Montemayor