Saying he speaks as a lawyer, President Rodrigo Duterte indicated yesterday he is giving Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde the “presumption of innocence” and that he will stay as the head of the police force.
In his arrival briefing at the Francisco Bangoy International Airport, the President maintained that he will not take action on the official until the Senate and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año complete their respective investigations on Albayalde and other policemen tagged in the drug recycling controversy.
Mr. Duterte and his entourage arrived from a fruitful visit that resulted in 10 major business deals and an assurance from Russian President Vladimir Putin to sign a labor agreement to address the problems of undocumented Filipino workers.
While an official report is still to be forwarded to his office, Mr. Duterte said he will not act on the case of Albayalde, who still has a little over a month left as the country’s top cop before retiring from service.
“Albayalde is still the PNP chief. Give me a clear proof that he was there or really involved in the trafficking of drugs,” stated the President.
Albayalde was being linked to the Pampanga shabu raid scandal in 2013 when a group of policemen seized 200 kilograms of the illegal substance but only declared 36 kilos.
Right to be heard
“Just because he was the provincial director, or he called someone… I have to follow due process and allow him time to answer. The right to be heard, it’s given to the criminals, to the kidnappers; it should be given to the general of the Philippine National Police,” he added.
For now, the Chief Executive maintained he is leaving the burden of probing Albayalde to Año.
“I approve or disapprove with finality once it reaches me,” Mr. Duterte stressed.
He then answered in the affirmative when asked if Albayalde still has his trust and confidence.
“The fact that he is still there… Otherwise I would have told him to just get out,” he concluded.
The Chief Executive also clarified that there are no generals included in the so-called “ninja cops” list.
The President said the mix-up was because he is still confused about the PNP’s rank classifications.
“I must admit my ignorance, actually. The ranks, like that of a superintendent, I asked to be brought back to police colonel, police major. Because everyone is confused,” Mr. Duterte, who had just wrapped up his five-day official visit to Russia, told reporters.
“There are no generals. No generals, I’m sure of that. In the report that reached me, there’s none. Colonel, I think,” he added.
Last Thursday, 3 October, the Chief Executive disclosed at a forum in Sochi that “there are two generals who are still playing” in the illegal drugs trade.
He made the pronouncement on the same day the Senate’s Blue Ribbon Committee resumed its probe on the alleged involvement of Albayalde’s alleged intervention in the case of the latter’s former subordinates at the Pampanga Police Office (PPO) who supposedly made millions from “recycling’ seized illegal drugs during a raid back in November 2013.
PNP spokesman Police Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac expressed confidence that Albayalde enjoys the full trust and confidence of President Rodrigo Duterte despite the issue hounding him on drug recycling.
“The President still trusts the PNP chief despite the issue facing the PNP on drug recycling,” Banac said in a statement.
Albayalde, 55, is set to retire from the police service on 8 November. Critics have called for his resignation due to the controversy.
At the same time, Banac assured the PNP will not let police scalawags stay in the police organization long, and those who will violate the law will be punished.
Brass not included
“Aside from the ongoing Senate investigation, we are not aware or have not received any report that other high-ranking PNP officials are involved in illegal drugs,” Banac said.
“Those who will violate the law should be held responsible, and we will not let any rogue policeman in our ranks,” he added.
At the same time, Banac assured that the PNP is ready to face any inquiry in relation to the controversy hounding the police organization regarding drug recycling.
He also appealed to the public for prayers, support and understanding even as they try to overcome the challenges they are facing.
Banac also reiterated that the 185,000-strong PNP force remains loyal, professional and disciplined to the service amid the controversy.
He also said that they will continue with their intensified campaign against criminality, illegal drugs and internal cleansing to rid the PNP of police scalawags.
Early retirement to do good
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has reiterated his suggestion for Albayalde to consider early retirement to allow the law enforcement authority to recover from the issue of drug recycling.
“Again, I emphasize that for the welfare of everyone, General Albayalde may consider early retirement because, in a month’s time, he will already retire. What will be the cost of retiring early? (He will not retire) because he is guilty, but because he cares for the organization,” Drilon said in a radio interview.
“An early retirement will restore some credibility on the part of the PNP hierarchy because of command responsibility. So that the image of PNP will not be continuously damaged, he may want to consider our suggestion.”
Drilon also reiterated that the PNP’s image as enforcers of the administration’s campaign against drugs was destroyed as the policemen who are behind the recycling of drugs are still in service.
“The intention here is to recover the PNP because the drug campaign was obstructed and the PNP was slightly destroyed because it was found that the PNP itself is the one behind the recycling.
How could you say that the drug war was effective when the PNP was the one who leads the proliferation and trade in our streets?” he pointed out.
But for Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Albayalde’s resignation or early retirement will be his personal decision.
“A resignation should be a personal decision. That should not be intervened by anybody. What is happening in controversies like that, eventually, they are going to resign, but we all know that the reason why he resigned is that the appointing authority has told him, in this case, the President of the Philippines,” Lacson said in another radio interview.