‘Ninja cops covered up 2013 drug bust’

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    Senate hearing. Sen. Richard Gordon grills Maj. Rodney Louie Baloyo IV (center) and PNP chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde during the resumption of the Senate hearing on ‘ninja’ cops. --- PHOTOS BY RHOY COBILLA
    Senate hearing. Sen. Richard Gordon grills Maj. Rodney Louie Baloyo IV (center) and PNP chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde during the resumption of the Senate hearing on ‘ninja’ cops. --- PHOTOS BY RHOY COBILLA

    THE 13 police officers involved in the November 2013 illegal drug buy-bust operation in Mexico, Pampanga attempted to cover-up their act by submitting a spot report “full of lies.”

    Retired Brig. Gen. Manuel Gaerlan, former deputy regional director for operations in Pampanga, said the team of Lt. Col. Rodney Raymundo Baloyo lied about the details of the operation because the buy-bust was unauthorized, had no search warrant and conducted without coordination with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

    “Kasinungalingan po ang spot report to cover up what really happened nung umaga (The spot report was full of lies, it was made to cover up what really happened that morning),”

    Gaerlan told senators during the hearing conducted by the Senate blue ribbon and justice committees.

    Gaerlan said he was tasked by former Region 3 Police Director Raul Petrasanta to validate the report submitted by Baloyo related to the November 29, 2013 buy-bust operation on the house of drug suspect Johnson Lee in Woodbridge Subdivision in Lakeshore, Mexico in Pampanga.

    “Nung una, tuwang-tuwa po kami. It is not every day we are able to confiscate 36 kilos of illegal drugs. Later on, nalaman po namin ‘yung irregularities,” Gaerlan said.

    The retired police official said Baloyo’s spot report was riddled with lies, such as the amount of illegal drugs confiscated, the time of the operation and the suspect arrested

    Gaerlan said the actual confiscated shabu weighed more than 200 kilos, “hindi lang po 36 kilos (it was not only 36 kilos).”

    He also said that contrary to the report, “alas diyes nila nang umaga pinasok ang drug den (they raided the drug den at 10 in the morning).”

    Baloyo, during the hearing, said his team was able to pull off the drug bust by 4:30 p.m. by pretending to be a buyer. He said they got information about the drug dealing activities at the Woodbridge residence from a neophyte police informant.

    Sen. Panfilo Lacson said he was amazed how Baloyo and his men were able to carry out the operation just more than two hours after getting a tip from their informant.

    He noted that the police team still had to verify the information given to them, secure and mark P100,000 worth of buy-bust money, and conduct surveillance before they could proceed with the drug sting.

    Baloyo and his 12 other companions were ordered dismissed in 2014 after they were found guilty for grave misconduct for failing to account for all the evidence during the drug sting.

    But the sanction was revised to a one-rank demotion in 2016 after the erring cops filed a motion for reconsideration.

    OFF TO BILIBID

    Also during the hearing, the Senate cited Baloyo in contempt and ordered his detention to the National Bilibid Prisons as “severe punishment” for giving evasive answers to senators.

    Senators accused Baloyo of lying about the details of the operations.

    Lacson moved to cite him in contempt and Drilon seconded the motion “for consistently giving answers which are evasive.”

    Gordon approved the motion and said Baloyo will not be detained at the Senate to “avoid spending” the Senate’s funds.

    This came after Baloyo said he ordered Police Officer 2 Anthony Lacsamana to conduct surveillance in Woodridge Subdivision, Lakeshore View in Mexico town. Lacsamana, however, contradicted this.

    Besides Baloyo and Lacsamana, the other policemen accused of pilfering shabu and taking bribes were Senior Inspector Joven de Guzman, Jr.; Senior Police Officer 1 Jules Maniago; Senior Police Officer 1 Donald Roque; Senior Police Officer 1 Ronald Santos; Senior Police Officer 1 Rommel Vital; Senor Police Officer 1 Alcindor Tinio; Senior Police Officer 1 Eligio Valeroso; Police Officer 3 Dindo Dizon; Police Officer 3 Gilbert De Vera; Police Officer 3 Romeo Guerrero Jr., and Police Officer 3 Dante Dizon.

    DEATH THREATS

    Also during Thursday’s hearing, a fearful PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino confirmed that PNP chief Oscar Albayalde asked him not to implement the dismissal of the 13 “ninja cops.”

    Aquino revealed that he felt “under pressure” to “soften” his statement during Tuesday’s hearing because of death threats that he has received following his September 16 statement that the “recycling” of seized drugs by rogue law enforcers remained “rampant.”

    On Tuesday, Aquino divulged that Albayalde called him up “between July and December 2016” while the policemen were still appealing the dismissal order.

    At the time, they were regional police chiefs for Central Luzon (where Pampanga is located) and Metro Manila, respectively.

    The following day, Senators Richard Gordon and Franklin Drilon expressed dismay because Aquino privately told them much more than what he had testified.

    Yesterday, Aquino elaborated that Albayalde went so far as to ask him not to implement the dismissal order while their appeal remained pending.

    “He also added, ‘Sir, baka pwedeng ‘wag mo munang i-implement ang order (Sir, maybe you could put on hold the implementation of the order),’” Aquino recounted.

    He then reiterated his earlier statement that he asked for Albayalde’s reason, and he was told: “‘Kasi mga tao ko sila (Because they are my people).’”

    Aquino said he promised to “review” the dismissal order and just reassign Albayalde’s former subordinates to faraway Mindanao island. He called this a “band-aid” solution.

    Lacson said this gave the impression that he granted Albayalde’s request. Aquino denied this and argued he was merely unable to resolve the appeal at the time.

    “No, Sir. Kasi Sir, sabi ko nga pinareview ko iyon. I was waiting for the feedback then, and na-overcome nga ako ng mga trabaho (Because Sir, I said I just had it reviewed. I was waiting for the feedback then, and I got overcome by work),” Aquino said.

    Aquino’s successor and Albayalde’s Philippine Military Academy classmate, Amador Corpuz, on Oct. 17, 2017 eventually downgraded the policemen’s penalty to one-rank demotion.

    Their “numerous awards/recommendations” were cited as a mitigating circumstance.

    In explaining why he did not fully disclose the supposed phone conversation, Aquino said he was in “deep pressure and quandary” last Tuesday because of supposed death threats.

    “A few days ago, I received a phone call from a friend who confirmed that some personalities are plotting against my family. The exact words are: ‘Sir, pinaghahandaan nila ang pamilya mo (Sir, they are planning something against your family),’ Aquino said.

    “I know the pressure and challenges of my position as the main drug enforcer of the country, but I literally broke down into small pieces hearing the information,” he added, noting that the PNP’s recall of his police escorts coincided with his revelations.

    Albayalde maintained that his act of calling Aquino could not have influenced him. He claimed the appeal of Baloyo and the other policemen was already “partially granted” even during the time of Aquino’s predecessor, retired Brig. Gen. Rudy Lacadin.

    Albayalde’s link to the November 29, 2013 operation was cleared by Gaerlan during the Thursday hearing.

    Gaerlan told senators that Baloyo and his mean conducted the drug bust without authority from Albayalde, who was the Pampanga provincial director at the time.

    “’Yung amin pong investigation, in fairness to Gen. Albayalde, wala naman po kaming nakitang evidence or testimony implicating him (Our investigation, in fairness to General Albayalde, yielded no evidence or testimony implicating him),” Gaerlan said