SENATORS yesterday welcomed the decision of PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde to relinquish his post, but said he will still be held accountable for the questionable November 2013 drug raid carried out by his former Pampanga subordinates.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP chief, expressed “mixed feelings” on how Albayalde abruptly ended his police service.
“Being a PMA graduate myself, I feel sad whenever fellow Peemayers slug it out publicly over issues that hit the very core of the unique and exclusive cadet honor system which has nurtured us for four arduous years to prepare ourselves to resist the moral challenges and temptations once we step out of the Academy,” Lacson said.
Although he said he was not casting judgment yet on Albayalde, Lacson said their fellow PMA graduates’ act of testifying against him “deserve all the salute and commendations from our fellow cavaliers and the Filipino people for doing their part not to ‘tolerate those among us Peemayers who violated the honor code.’”
The Philippine Military Academy, Lacson stressed, abide by the code: “A cadet does not lie, cheat or steal nor tolerate those who do.”
Lacson said Albayalde’s statement that he will file a complaint against retired Gen. Rudy Lacadin for implicating him in the “ninja cops” issue “somehow diminished the redeeming value of his intent to spare the PNP from the so-called ninja cops controversies.”
Lacadin, in the last Senate hearing into the ninja cops controversy, told senators that Albayalde called him to inquire about the investigation that his office was conducting on the irregular November 29, 2013 buy bust operation that Pampanga rogue police officers conducted on the house of a suspected Chinese drug lord. At the time that he received the call, Lacadin was the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group deputy director.
During the conversation, Lacadin claimed Albayalde told him that “only a little” of the confiscated drugs went to him.
A day after the Senate hearing, Albayalde said in a statement: “Lacadin has a lot of explaining to do and he will have his day in court.”
Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said: “His resignation ahead of his mandatory retirement, however, will not in any way clear him from his liability, both administratively or criminally, in connection with the Pampanga ninja cops issue.”
Drilon said Albayalde’s “failure to condemn” the alleged acts of the 13 former subordinates led by Major Rodney Raymund Baloyo IV “indicated complicity to the criminal conduct of his men.”
The senator, who was among the first to call on Albayalde to step down even as he was set to compulsorily retire on November 8, said he expected there will be a “better vetting process” for the successor to be appointed by President Duterte.
“The next PNP chief will have to work doubly hard to regain the credibility of the police community and the government’s drug war,” Drilon said.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros said Albayalde’s move was appropriate “given the gravity of accusations, which have further demoralized an already misdirected police force.”
However, she said this was “not closure” just yet.
“Rather, this is an important development in the people’s quest for truth, justice and accountability. May this aid us all in our collective effort to continue to ferret out the truth, hold all responsible accountable and redeem the tarnished image and reputation of our police force,” Hontiveros said.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan, however, was not optimistic about Albayalde’s stepping down, given the Duterte administration’s tendency to “recycle” its other officials disgraced by issues related to corruption or illegal drugs.
“This government has failed to go after them and has in fact assigned many of them to other posts,” Pangilinan said.
He recalled the cases of former Bureau of Customs Commissioner-turned-Bureau of Corrections Chief Nicanor Faeldon and former Bureau of Customs Commissioner-turned-Technical Education and Skills Development Authority Director-General Isidro Lapeña, both of whom figured in controversies regarding the smuggling of billions of pesos worth of illegal drugs under their watch.
“He and all the rest should be charged for at the very least enriching themselves using their government office—regardless of their having resigned,” Pangilinan said.
“For a government that claims to be against illegal drugs and corruption, it has acted in the opposite direction and has in fact coddled the corrupt and those linked to illegal drugs,” he added.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Ferdinand Gaite said Albayalde’s resignation was “designed as a smokescreen to hide the real corruption and shenanigans of the drug war of President Duterte.”
“They are trying to minimize the damage that Gen. Albayalde’s involvement had done which is why he was let go earlier. Malacañang officials may have talked to Albayalde over the weekend for him to resign and ‘take one for the team’ as they say,” he said.
“As late as last Friday, Albayade was adamant that he would not resign but what transpired over the weekend that he changed his mind? Apparently, he became too hot to handle and the Senate investigation has further exposed the bogus character of the drug war of Pres. Duterte,” he added.
ACT party-list Rep. France Castro said Albayalde’s resignation “is not enough and (he) should still be held liable for his actions and involvement in the ‘ninja cops’ (activities).”
“The Senate investigation on the ‘ninja cops’ and the implementation of the GCTA law has further exposed the bogus war against drugs and corruption of the Duterte administration,” Castro said.
Castro said the “war against drugs has claimed thousands of lives, including children and seniors in the guise of their ‘nanlaban’ script only to be revealed that the police recycle and plant drug paraphernalia to justify their killings.”
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, said Albayalde might have had enough of the allegations against him.
Panelo said his decision might have been prompted by the fact that the “false, unfair accusations and innuendos” about his alleged involvement in the “agaw bato” scheme of rogue police officers have already negatively impacted on his family.
Panelo surmised it must have been Albayalde’s family who convinced him to make the decision.
Panelo said Malacañang respects Albayalde’s decision and thanked him for his services.
Contrary to speculations, Panelo belied that Malacañang pressured Albayalde to step down.
“The NDS (non-duty status) is a privilege and its availment is voluntary, in accordance with the National Police Commission guidelines,” he said.
“We wish General Albayalde all the best in his future undertakings as we express our sincere gratitude to the former PNP Chief for his services to this administration, to the nation and to the people,” he added.
President Duterte has yet to name Albayalde’s successor as PNP Director General. The organization’s number two man, Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa, the deputy chief for administration, has been named officer-in-charge.
Panelo said that in terms of Albayalde’s innocence, he said the President had already said that he wants to see clear proof that he was indeed involved and had profited from illegal drugs.
“Until such time, the presumption of innocence applies to him,” he said.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has until November 8 to file administrative cases against Albayalde in connection with the investigation it is conducting on his supposed links to the illegal activities of ninja cops.
When the prescriptive period passes and no charges are filed, Albayalde will be given all benefits due him when he retires.
Año said that if the justice department, which is also conducting a parallel investigation into the issue, decides to file charges against the latter after his retirement, it will be up to the court to impose the penalties on Albayalde.
He said the penalties usually involve holding the benefits or Albayalde will be made to return a certain amount of his monthly salary.
Año, who is also Napolcom chairman, said the commission will come up with a decision on Albayalde once the Senate wraps ups its investigation.
“If for example Albayalde will be charged with criminal or administrative cases then that will be the time that his benefits will be affected once the decision or resolution comes out,” he said.
Año said he has never lost his trust and confidence on Albayalde as he has seen how dedicated the former PNP chief was in his work. – With Wendell Vigilia, Jocelyn Montemayor and Raymond Africa