Sen. Richard Gordon, who is investigating the anomalies in the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), which spawned the probe on the “ninja cops,” believes Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde cannot be fully free of transgression in the drug issue now hounding his men.
Gordon said Albayalde could be either negligent or knowledgeable of the alleged pilfering of illegal drugs seized from suspects by his former subordinates in Pampanga in 2013.
The lawmaker on Monday disclosed that this is among the findings of the Senate inquiry into the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) for sale scheme at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) that morphed into the involvement of active policemen in recycling seized illegal drugs or the “ninja cops.”
Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committees on Justice and Human Rights and Blue Ribbon, presided over the hearings triggered by the botched release of convicted rapist and murderer ex-Calauan mayor Antonio Sanchez last 20 August.
“He is between negligence and possible knowledge… He was aware of it and he never did anything about it except talk to General (Aaron) Aquino,” Gordon told Senate reporters.
The senator was referring to Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency director general Aaron Aquino, who served as director of Police Regional Office-3 (PRO-3) and who had the authority to implement the dismissal order against Maj. Rodney Baloyo, Albayalde’s intelligence officer during his time as Pampanga police chief.
Baloyo led the buy-bust operation in November 2013 against Chinese drug lord Johnson Lee. It led to the seizure of an estimated 200 kilograms of shabu and P10 million cash. Lee was also initially arrested but freed in exchange for P50 million cash.
He, along with 12 of his men, were recommended for dismissal by then PRO-3 director Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta for the anomalous anti-drug operation.
However, the dismissal order was not implemented until 2016 during the time of Chief Supt. Amador Corpus, a mistah of Albayalde from the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1986, who downgraded the order to mere demotion of those involved.
At the hearing, Aquino admitted that during his stint as PRO-3 director, Albayalde called and asked him to review the case against Baloyo “because they are my men.”
Gordon stressed that there are “ways of being involved” either “by your negligence (which means) you did not do anything” or “by your own fault (meaning) you were really involved.”
“A lot of generals have come forward and would clearly indicate that something happened, and yet it was not sufficiently handled and sufficiently investigated. There was really a problem and there were doubts that he (Albayalde) needs to answer,” he said.
According to Gordon, he intends to submit three reports after closing the inquiry in aid of legislation — one each for the GCTA, the irregularities at the BuCor and the PNP.
He said he would call for one more date before wrapping up and preparing the reports.
“We will be coming out with new (information),” he vowed.
Gordon suggested that the Office of the Ombudsman should consider all the testimonies gathered during the Senate inquiry for the filing of formal cases against those involved.
“We do not hide anything and the answers are pretty precise. I think that is a very good investigation. I think since everything is under oath, I think it should be picked up by the Ombudsman for the filing of cases,” he said.
At the same time, the senator also denied politics was behind the investigation, explaining that the probe only coincided with Albayalde’s retirement on 8 November.
“No, the investigation was there and it occurred at the latter part of his career, a couple of months before his retirement. I think he has a lot to explain on the development of the case. He left a lot of questions unanswered,” the senator said.
Meanwhile, Albayalde said the 13 Pampanga policemen, led by Baloyo who is now detained at the NBP after being cited in contempt by the Senate, could be removed from service without notice.
Six years after he reportedly blocked the sacking of these so-called “ninja cops,” he announced that they could now be facing summary dismissal.
“I have directed the Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management to take the lead in reviewing the administrative cases involving the so-called ‘ninja cops’ in coordination with the PNP-Internal Affairs Service to initiate possible summary dismissal proceedings against these errant personnel,” Albayalde said.
He also thanked President Rodrigo Duterte for his continued trust and confidence.
Upon his arrival from Russia, the President stressed that the chief PNP is entitled to due process as he asked for solid evidence that will link Albayalde to illegal drugs.
“Let me express my deepest gratitude even as I profess my continued faithful service to our country and people,” Albayalde said.
The PNP’s Directorate for Personnel and Records Management has also been tasked to keep the cops available to face the internal probe. This is alongside a decision of the Department of Justice (DoJ) to reopen its investigation into the 2013 case, where these cops reportedly recycled drugs seized from a buy-bust operation in Mexico, Pampanga.
Albayalde has also instructed all PNP units to cooperate with the DoJ inquiry and called upon those implicating him in the illicit scheme to show proof that he interfered in previous investigations.
The group of Baloyo was accused of keeping for themselves around 160 kilograms of shabu out of the estimated 200 kilos seized from Lee.
Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, former director of the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, came out with this expose during questioning by Senate Minority leader Franklin Drilon.
Relatedly, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo branded as “foul” the submission of a supplemental communication by Rise Up for Life and Rights (Rise Up) before the International Criminal Court (ICC) urging Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to start the investigation into the President’s campaign against illegal drugs.
Panelo, in a statement, said the submission was meant to embarrass the President during his official visit to Russia.
“This action is foul to say the least as this runs contrary to our standard norm and behavior to be united for our leader every time the Chief Executive is in a foreign country building up the image of the country in the international stage,” he stated.
“The motive of the communication is suspect. The detractors’ trumped up figures have no factual basis and they know that the same allegations will not hold up in court. They are trying to blemish the legitimate operations of our law enforcement personnel, who were only forced to protect themselves in the performance of their duty to serve and protect the people, before an international tribunal which does not have jurisdiction over our country and its leaders,” he added.
With Francis T. Wakefield, Kristina Maralit and Elmer N. Manuel