It was the turn of Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) director general Aaron Aquino to be on the hot seat yesterday before the joint Senate Justice and Human Rights and Blue Ribbon Committees inquiry into the “ninja cops” controversy after Senate probers were informed that the erstwhile Central Luzon regional director did not act on the dismissal order of 13 Pampanga policemen who were allegedly recycling drugs and behind the anomalous drug operation in Mexico, Pampanga in 2013.
During the continuation of the probe, former Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief Benjamin Magalong and then Police Brig. General Graciano Mijares of the Personnel Holding and Accounting Unit (PHAU) both indicated Aquino failed to implement the order after receiving a call from then Metro Manila chief and now National Police chief Oscar Albayalde.
On the interpellation of Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the lawmaker bared information that Aquino was torn between two recommendations from a retiring police official and from a member of the “ruling class.”
Aquino denied the allegations until Magalong manifested and confirmed Lacson’s information, saying that Aquino cannot decide on what recommendation to follow.
“An underclass, who was then a member of the staff of General Aquino when he was the regional director (RD), what he told me was: ‘Sir, I know what happened since I was in the office of RD (Aquino). RD was in a dilemma on who to follow. General Magalong, who is about to retire, or the other one who is part of the ruling class who is a contender for chief PNP,’” Magalong said quoting Mijares.
Mijares was the underclass, while Albayalde was the contender for PNP chief, Magalong said.
This was not denied by the police officer, saying: “Yes, actually… I can confirm that Sir, indeed, that the RD was in a quandary on who to follow.”
However, Aquino dismissed that he was indecisive at that time as he explained that he was not able to sign the recommendation of dismissal since he was focused on the anti-narcotics campaign.
Albayalde may face neglect of duty or graft as a result of the probe, according to Gordon.
In an ambush interview, the senator said that based on his personal assessment on the foregoing circumstances as revealed during the investigation, the PNP chief might be charged with neglect of duty at the very least or graft at worst.
“Graft can be done in negligence, you benefited, that has to be proven. It is the other side of the spectrum. The minimum is neglect. Remember, everything here is born out of the momentum,” Gordon said.
He also questioned Albayalde’s repeated denial of his involvement in the case of the 13 erring cops, but it was found that the PNP chief applied for promotions based on the same incident.
During the hearing, it was discovered that Albayalde, along with his subordinates, pursued awards and promotions after the 2013 buy-bust operation.
Magalong said Albayalde repeatedly lied about the irregular drug operation during the deliberations on his one-star promotion.
“I remember sometime in 2016 when we were deliberating on his promotion to one-star general and I objected… I requested the board for him to appear before the members of the board to ask him about this particular incident,” he said.
Magalong and Mijares testified that Aquino did not act on the recommendation to junk the motion for reconsideration as appealed by the 13 Pampanga cops in March 2016.
The Pampanga police officers were found guilty of grave misconduct in 2014 for failure to account for all seized evidence.
But in October 2017, current CIDG director Major Amador Corpus finalized the order and sanctioned the erring cops with a one-rank demotion.
‘I’m being crucified’
Albayalde claimed he was being “crucified” and being “ganged up” during the Senate probe on the alleged ninja cops as another phone call was disclosed during the investigation.
Former Central Luzon Police Office director Rudy Lacadin said when he was assigned to conduct an informal investigation to validate the anomalous drug operations in Mexico, Pampanga in 2013 led by Albayalde’s former subordinates, the incumbent PNP chief called, him saying he benefited, although small, from the buy-bust.
The former Pampanga CIDG officer said he was not aware if Albayalde said that in jest or not, but Albayalde quickly challenged Lacadin’s claim.
“I really don’t know what is this conspiracy against me, but it seems that everybody is ganging up on me. I really don’t know. It’s very unlikely that I will say that to Gen. Lacadin. We never had a chance (to be) under one office,” Albayalde said.
He argued that if Lacadin’s claims were true, that should have been an accusation against him six years ago.
Whistleblowers stand up
Albayalde maintained, during his opening statement, that he was only following orders when he did not oppose the relief order of former Central Luzon Police Director Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta.
This was affirmed by Lacson, a former PNP chief, saying military and police officers were trained to abide by the orders of officers with higher ranks.
“Not to defend Gen Albayalde. Part of the training, basic principles of PMA (Philippine Military Academy), he who does not obey is not fit to command. We follow… I beg your indulgence, this culture of the military and police is our future. We never question why we were relieved. We never question our superior officers. No such thing in the military or police organization,” Lacson said.
“Civilian culture is different, especially in civil government. You can file a motion for reconsideration. It’s not the same in our case. If you are removed without asking, we follow,” he added.
Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, meanwhile, called on whistleblowers to testify in the Senate.
“We encourage all whistleblowers. Speak up. If you want the Philippines to change, tell the truth, 100 percent, without additions, without missing details,” Go said in an ambush interview.
“When you speak before the Senate you are under oath, so most likely nobody lies. Those caught lying face contempt and imprisonment. Once you speak in front of the Blue Ribbon Committee, we expect that everything you say are true,” he added.
The senator said corrupt officers must be removed from the PNP, but he also expressed his continued support for the PNP.