Philippine National Police chief General Oscar Albayalde may face criminal and administrative charges for involvement in the irregular Pampanga raid when he was provincial police director in 2013.
Senator Richard Gordon, who leads the legislative inquiry into the “ninja” or drug-linked cops, said Saturday the testimonies of two former Central Luzon police chiefs are enough to pin the top cop down.
Chief drug buster Aaron Aquino earlier testified that Albayalde in 2016 asked him not to implement the dismissal of 13 Pampanga policemen over the flawed drug sting, where they allegedly got millions of pesos from recycling the seized shabu and extorting from the drug trafficker. Aquino was head of the Police Regional Office 3 when Albayalde called him. Albayalde was then acting regional police director of Metro Manila, a post he received after being placed under floating status for eight months because of the raid.
Aquino’s predecessor, retired PCSupt. Rudy Lacadin, meanwhile revealed that Albayalde also called him to ask about the investigation he was conducting on the Pampanga cops. According to Lacadin, Albayalde supposedly said he got only “a little” from the raid. While Lacadin said this remark may have been made in jest, lawmakers, including Gordon, believe his statement was “damaging” to Albayalde’s credibility.
Speaking at a media forum on Saturday, Gordon said, “We have the testimony of a general of the PDEA that he was approached and then another general came in, Lacadin, and then we have the circumstantial connection that if you put together you can really build up a very, very strong case criminally and administratively.”
“He (Albayalde) really needs a strong lawyer,” Gordon addded, saying there is enough circumstantial and testimonial evidence against the embattled PNP chief.
Albayalde has denied the allegations hurled against him and is now preparing to file charges against his accusers. He has asked veteran lawyer and and former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza for legal assistance.
‘I don’t care if you’re retiring’
Gordon did not specify what charges can be filed against Albayalde, but said neglect of duty is one of them.
“Talagang dapat tamaan si Albayalde for negligence, neglect of duty. Hindi mo sinisita e (Albayalde should really be held liable for negligence, neglect of duty. He did not reprimand his men),” Gordon said.
“He kept quiet until he got up in the ranks and he started talking with Gen. Aquino and everybody else,” Gordon added.
Albayalde has been grilled for claiming he had little to zero knowledge of his subordinates’ anti-drug operation, despite being their leader. He said he did not get himself involved because he thought it was just a “simple” operation. Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, former chief of the PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, accused Albayalde of blocking the dismissal of his men and involvement in the raid.
Gordon said it is hard to believe Albayalde did not know what his men were doing. He said Albayalde should have been investigated along with the raiding team and not merely placed under preventive suspension.
Albayalde is retiring this month, but Gordon said nothing can stop anyone from filing a case against him.
“We have to lay the standard. I don’t care if you’re retiring. In the first place, that’s wishful thinking. If he is really guilty, even if he retires, pwede pa ring habulin ni Magalong, pwede pa ring habulin ni Secretary of Justice (Magalong and the Secretary of Justice can still go after him),” Gordon said.
Justice Secretary Menardo Gueverra has ordered a reinvestigation of the Pampanga cops’ case. The National Police Commission, the body tasked to administer and control the 190,000-strong police force, is also reviewing the case, including Albayalde’s possible liabilities.
President Rodrigo Duterte said he will wait for investigation results before taking action on Albayalde and his former subordinates. Albayalde’s men, who are now called “ninja cops,” were initially ordered dismissed. Four years after the raid, their punishment was downgraded to a one-rank demotion, something lawmakers have heavily criticized. Duterte previously said Albayalde’s “only link” to the erring cops was that he happened to be Pampanga’s provincial director when the questionable drug raid happened.