By Darwin Pesco/Manila Times
The Philippine National Police (PNP) yesterday said its former chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde, and 13 so-called ninja cops “remain innocent until proven guilty.”
“The PNP will let justice, fairness and due process of law take (their) course. All accused remain innocent until proven guilty,” PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said in a statement.
The police organisation, according to Banac, would leave it to Albayalde and the concerned policemen, together with their legal teams, “to address the other side issues that may come with their possible criminal indictment as recommended by (two) Senate panels.”
Sen. Richard Gordon on Friday presented a Senate report on drug recycling in Pampanga in 2013 involving the 13 allegedly rogue policemen.
Gordon said the Senate blue ribbon and justice committees had recommended charges against Albayalde for violations of the Anti-Graft Law, the Revised Penal Code and the Dangerous Drug Act.
The Senate report found Albayalde “legally liable” for an alleged “monumental cover-up” of the drug recycling by the ninja cops.
On Monday, Albayalde stepped down from his post and went on non-duty status days ahead of his retirement next month at the mandatory age of 56.
Before exiting, he had tapped the legal help of former Justice Secretary Estelito Mendoza, his provincemate from Pampanga. Albayalde is yet to respond to a message from Manila Times to comment on the Gordon report.
Meanwhile, the PNP took the frustrations of President Rodrigo Duterte with the police over the drug recycling issue as a “challenge.”
“But we will not let him down,” Banac said.
“We fully understand his frustrations and misgivings over the recent turn of events involving some PNP personnel,” he added.
The PNP assured that it remains on track to reform itself into the “ideal shape” to topple crime, illegal drugs and corruption.
Banac said the alleged ninja cops were under the custody of the PNP Personnel Holding and Accounting Unit while waiting for a review of their case by the Department of Justice (DoJ).
The ninja cops were identified as Senior Insp. Joven de Guzman, Senior Police Officers 1 Jules Maniago, Donald Roque, Ronald Santos, Rommel Vital, Alcindor Tinio and Eligio Valeroso.
Also identified were Police Officers (PO) 3 Dindo Dizon, Gilbert de Vera, Romeo Guerrero Jr, and Dante Dizon and PO2 Anthony Lacsamana.
Lt Col. Rodney Raymundo Louie Baloyo, the former Pampanga police chief of intelligence, was detained at the New Bilibid Prison for evading questions at a Senate hearing.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is set to release results of its own probe of Albayalde and the alleged ninja cops next week, its spokesman Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said.
The PNP acting chief Lt. Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa, on Thursday said he would review all pending drug cases involving policemen, particularly the new cases of the four ninja cops.
“We would look at it thoroughly, so we assure the public that we would not be biased about it and I will order the digging up of the old and new cases against the 13 policemen,” Gamboa added in a radio interview.
He confirmed that the National Police Commission had given him the power as PNP chief so he could now review the drug cases of the policemen.
Reportedly, Roque, Vital, Domingo and Guerrero participated in an anti-illegal drug operation in Antipolo City east of Manila in May this year.
Their dismissal has been recommended by the PNP’s Internal Affairs Service. Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd also yesterday said the Senate would debate on and approve the report of the Senate blue ribbon and justice committees recommending the filing of criminal charges against Albayalde and the 13 ninja cops when it resumes regular session on November 4.
Interviewed by radio DWIZ while in Singapore after attending the Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly in Belgrade, Serbia, along with 10 other senators, Sotto added that he is confident that majority of the 24-man Senate would approve the 46-page committee report. “I think the voting will be unanimous,” he said, adding that the committee report contained accurate and faithful reproduction of the Senate public hearings.
The Interior department will determine whether Albayalde will receive his retirement and/or pension benefits in light of the Senate findings and whether the Justice department will file criminal charges against him and his 13 men who were his subordinates when he was the Pampanga provincial director in 2013. In late 2013, the ninja cops allegedly staged a simulated buy-bust at a subdivision in Mexico, Pampanga, declared that only 32 of the 200kgs of crystal meth (shabu) were seized, allegedly freed the South Korean drug lord Johnson Lee after receiving P50mn in “kidnap” ransom and made off with some of Lee’s vehicles.
In lieu of Lee, the police raiders presented a Chinese, Ding Wenkun, as the alleged drug lord.
Wenkun was picked up at his Angeles City residence. Albayalde denied that the drug raid was simulated.
A retired PNP general, Rudy Lacadin, testified that Albayalde called him up on pending dismissal orders for his men and that the then-Pampanga police chief admitted having received a small amount of the seized drugs.
Albayalde’s successor, Aaron Aquino, current Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chairman, testified that Albayalde also called him up on the dismissal orders.
The DILG will decide whether it would file administrative charges against Albayalde and his men.
The president already has a copy of the Senate report as carried to Malacanang by Sen. Christopher Lawrence ‘’Bong’’ Go, former special assistant to the president.
When asked whether the DoJ would not sit on the Senate committee report, Sotto replied: “I hope so.”
“He will,” he also replied to a query whether Sen. Ronald dela Rosa will affix his signature on the report although he and Albayalde are both graduates of the Philippine Military Academy.
Sotto said dela Rosa, a former PNP chief, would sign the committee report as long as it faithfully reflects what transpired at the Senate public hearings. He added that those linked to the drug recycling case must face the music, but their fate depends on the courts.
The Gordon committees listed legislative proposals such as: strengthen the Internal Affairs Service by making it a truly independent institution and should be detached from the PNP structure; amend the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, where persons of good repute should monitor procedures on chain of custody and on drug buy-busts are followed; suspend or dismiss rogue policemen, not merely reassigned to other posts; confiscate service firearms and badges of rogue policemen who have been dismissed or suspended or facing criminal and administrative charges; shorten review of administrative cases filed against rogue policemen; create a programme that will conduct mandatory training on values, character formation and leadership for all policemen in order to professionalise the police force in all levels; make police officers take a four-year course not offered at the PNP Academy; and shift the PNPA focus on specific after-collegiate training (boot camp for 27 weeks).
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