Sotto teases ‘explosive’ reveal at Senate inquiry on ‘ninja’ cops

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    THE public will be in for a good show at today’s Senate joint committee hearing into the “ninja” cops scandal as Senate President Vicente Sotto III yesterday said he expected “explosive” developments in today’s inquiry.

    In a news forum, Sotto said he signed “definitely more than five” subpoenas for witnesses regarding not just the issue of alleged “ninja cops,” but also those who supposedly receive bribes for the favorable computation of prisoners’ good conduct time allowance credits.

    “I don’t know if I’m at liberty to tell you, but there is really something explosive again tomorrow,” Sotto said. “Mas mabubulatlat pa ang katotohanan (The truth will be revealed even further).”

    Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Sen. Richard Gordon, in a separate statement, said PNP chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde will also be given a chance to clear questions about him.

    “There’s been too much talk. Now we really have to measure every word, every evidence [so the] people will know that the government is for them, not against them,” Gordon said.

    The Senate will resume this morning its inquiry into the intolerable activities of ninja cops in relation to the “recycling” of confiscated illegal drugs.

    The legislative inquiry has so far identified 13 ninja cops who were formerly assigned to the Pampanga police office and were involved in the questionable 2013 buy bust operation against a suspected Chinese drug lord in Mexico, Pampanga. At the time, Albayalde was the Pampanga police chief.

    The rogue police officers were identified by former Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief Benjamin Magalong, who said an investigation into the drug bust showed how the involved policemen tried to cover-up the unauthorized operation.

    Sotto said Albayalde should stop blaming Magalong for his role in bringing up the issue of ninja cops, and saying instead that the police top official should blame the Senate for dragging his name into the controversy.

    “Kung may dapat sisihin, let’s say si Albayalde, Senado ang sisihin niya. ‘Yung blue ribbon, hindi si Mayor Magalong (If there’s someone who should be blamed, let’s say by Albayalde, it should be the Senate. It’s the blue ribbon, not Mayor Magalong),” Sotto said.

    “Mayor Magalong was forced to say what happened during the investigation,” Sotto stressed.

    It was the now-Baguio City mayor who encouraged Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Aaron Aquino to reveal Albayalde’s alleged intervention in the dismissal of his 13 former subordinates involved in the irregular November 2013 operation.

    Aquino has testified that when they were both PNP regional directors in late 2016, Albayalde asked him not to implement the dismissal order against the policemen led by former Pampanga intelligence chief Maj. Rodney Raymund Baloyo while their appeal was still pending.

    PNP PROBE

    PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said they will conduct an investigation on the supposed involvement of two ranking police officials in illegal drugs activities once President Duterte publicly identifies them.

    Banac said investigators will get all the information on their data base regarding the two police colonels and compare these with their existing list of more than 700 cops who have been monitored for alleged various criminal activities.

    In case the name of the two police colonels are in the list of those who are being monitored, Banac said it will be easier for the PNP to conduct their probe.

    But when the names do not appear, Banac said investigators will have to start from scratch and conduct a thorough background check for case buildup.

    Albayalde has said the PNP has been monitoring the activities of more than 700 cops but the names were later decreased to 87. Of the number, only 22 are allegedly involved in illegal drugs, the highest official of which has the rank of a police major.

    Banac said the Internal Affairs Service has said more than 190,000 cops passed the lifestyle check it conducted this year. The IAS checks on the lifestyle of a policeman based on their submitted Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN).

    The annual lifestyle check on cops is done every March 31. It usually lasts for a few weeks, depending on the number of policemen that needs to be check in a given police station.

    The yearly assessment is done to determine if cops are living within their means.

    The lifestyle check can be repeated anytime of the year if the PNP receives information that a certain police officer is living beyond his or her means.

    Banac said the IAS can re-investigate the lifestyle of the 13 ninja cops from Pampanga who have been identified in the Senate hearing.

    The 12 alleged ninja cops are now all accounted for at the Personnel Holding and Administrative Unit in Camp Crame, except for Baloyo who is now detained at the New Bilibid Prisons after he was cited in contempt by the Senate for giving evasive answers to senators’ questions.

    A separate probe is also being conducted by the Department of Justice on the 13 alleged ninja cops.

    The Department of Justice has likewise started its own reinvestigation of the cases. Secretary Menardo Guevarra has formed a panel of prosecutors to restart the investigation.

    Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said the testimony of Magalong before the Senate is crucial to the DOJ’s reinvestigation of the cases.

    Markk Perete noted Magalong has made a lot of disclosures during his testimony before the Senate. “He (Magalong) should be part of the complaint or he may even want to testify himself,” Perete said in an interview over ABS CBN News Channel.

    “He has made a lot of revelations during the course of the Senate investigation and we imagined that he’d have the wherewithal to identify these individuals and help us locate these individuals for the purpose of the preliminary investigation,” Perete added.

    Guevarra has given Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Alexander Suarez, Assistant State Prosecutors Josie Christina Dugay and Gino Paulo Santiago 30 days to finish their task. – With Raymond Africa and Ashzel Hachero

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