In Senate face-off, Albayalde denies Aquino claims
The head of the Philippine National Police ( PNP) on Tuesday denied the allegations of Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino that he intervened in the dismissal of cops involved in the November 2013 drug operation in Pampanga.
Police General Oscar Albayalde attended the Senate hearing on so-called "ninja cops" involved in "agaw bato" or drug recycling.
Albayalde admitted calling Aquino not to intervene on the dismissal order but only to ask about the status of the cops allegedly involved in illegal drugs.
"Yes I asked for the status, only the status. I could not possibly influence a regional director or an upperclass (in the PMA)," Albayalde told the senators.
The PNP chief said he was acting regional director of National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) when he called Aquino, then regional director of Central Luzon in 2016.
"Of course, I will ask them because the people, their relatives should also be asking me the fate of their father, the fate of these policemen. It's because I was a former acting provincial director... it's normal that families will go to the former boss to ask for the status of these people," he said.
"But never in one time that I asked for any favor. I was asking for the status. That is why General Aaron (Aquino) here ordered for the review of the case," Albayalde added.
Aquino made the statement after Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, a former Criminal Investigation and Detection Group director when the 2013 Pampanga drug raid transpired, told him to reveal to the public what he mentioned in their meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila Hotel.
The PDEA chief said Albayalde called him to hold the dismissal of the cops involved.
"That's why I only sent them to Mindanao," said Aquino.
Thirteen police officers were involved in the operation and these are all included in ninja cops list provided by Magalong.
During the session, Senator Panfilo Lacson Jr said the buy-bust operation has many violations which resulted to the dismissal order by then Central Luzon police director, Brigadier General Raul Petrasanta, on 2014 but the order was only received by the respondents on March 2016.
"Why it was only served after one or two years?" he asked.
CIDG chief and former Central Luzon director Major General Amador Corpus said he signed the resolution that instead of dismissal, the cops involved were just demoted.
Despite being Albayalde's PMA classmate, Corpus said no one talked to him to come up with that decision. Corpus said it's based on documents he acquired from previous directors.
The issue of dismissal was then pointed at Aquino. which led to disclosd what he said.
As the session continued, no one from active and retired police officers were able to answer why these cops were never dismissed.
To prove he is not involved with the alleged ninja cops, Albayalde said he did not follow a court order allowing these cops to return to the Central Luzon provincial police office.
"I was the chief PNP then. In August I received a letter from the court requesting them to be return to PRO3... but still I did not (follow) fully to the request of court to be back... What we did is we distribute them to different regions," he said.
"They were placed under strict monitoring. Records will show that they are being monitored in a weekly basis," he said.
The PNP chief then questioned Magalong's intent in opening an old issue.
"He was CIDG then, director of DIDM (Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management). They could have done everything with all his power and authority to address this matter," he said.
"When these people were supposed to be dismissed back in 2014 when General Magalong was still the DIDM ( head), he could have followed up... now after six years, this issue came up again. I don't know what General Magalong wants to show," Albayalde added.
It was the Baguio City mayor who first re-opened the issue of "ninja cops" disclosing that an active high-ranking police officer is involved. After the revelation, rumor spread he was referring to Albayalde.
Magalong said former PNP chief Alan Purisima ordered him to investigate police officers in Pampanga who allegedly benefited from drug lords as they were able to acquire SUVs (sport utility vehicles) as selling of illegal drugs in the province was rampant.
He added that Albayalde was informed about the operations of his men.
But according to Albayalde, he was not briefed by the police officers.
During their confrontation, Magalong said Purisima also told him that Albayalde acquired a SUV.
"I really don't know what personal grudge General Magalong has because this happened in 2013 and what I have is a pick-up truck, an old model one. I can even say I bought that from a neighbor," said Albayalde.
"I don't know the motive of Mayor Magalong and again as I said if he has something against these people he could have done ( something) way back 2014-2015 and not during my time as chief PNP," he added.
Albayalde said they are working on finding a certain Korean, Johnson Lee who is the drug lord released by then Pampanga cops after being paid by P50 million.
PDEA said Lee is in President Rodrigo Duterte's drug watchlist.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the case is still under automatic review.
"Within (a) months time, the resolution will be released one way or another," he said.
In an interview with reporters, Senator Richard Gordon said Albayalde's call to the PDEA chief may be to cover up the incident.
"When something is under investigation, you don't call somebody," he said.
"At the very least, he was very very negligent. At the most, he was extremely not looking at the ball," Gordon added.
The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chair clarified Albayalde is not included in Magalong's list but was mentioned during last week's executive session.
The next hearing is on October 3. Ella Dionisio/DMS