Albayalde wanted 'review' of 'agaw-bato' case; PNP chief denies cover-up

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 01 2019 02:40 PM | Updated as of Oct 01 2019 03:43 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) - Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Dir. Gen. Oscar Albayalde on Tuesday denied protecting his former subordinates who were accused of making off with millions worth of illegal drugs seized in a drug raid in 2013.

Albayalde was the chief of Pampanga police when a team of cops led by then-Supt. Rodney Baloyo allegedly made off with some 160 kilograms of shabu, worth around P648 million at the time, following an anti-drug operation on alleged Chinese drug lord Johnson Lee.

As chief of Pampanga police then, Albayalde was relieved of his post because of command responsibility.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino said that during his stint as Central Luzon police chief, Albayalde called him sometime between July and December 2016 to inquire about the status of the cases of his former men.

“Nagtatanong siya sa status of the case, status ng case nila Baloyo,” Aquino told a Senate hearing.

(He asked about the status of the cases of Baloyo and his men.)

“I told him na gusto kong i-review muna ang kaso na iyon, nung time na iyon. And sinabi niya sa akin na, ‘Sir for the meantime baka pwedeng ipa-review muna iyan at ipa-check kasi gusto kong malaman kung ano talaga ang magiging result ng investigation na iyan,’” he added.

(I told him I wanted to review the case. He said, "Sir for the meantime we should review the case and have it checked because I really want to know the result of the investigation.")

Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, said he found Albayalde’s call to Aquino as “inappropriate.”

Albayalde, who was chief of the Metro Manila police at the time, said he only called Aquino to inquire about the developments on the case because the embattled policemen’s relatives kept on asking him for updates.

“Yes, I asked for the status, only the status. [But] I could not possibly influence a regional director or an upperclass. I’m just an acting regional director of NCRPO (National Capital Region Police Office) then,” Albayalde said.

“Of course, I would ask them because their relatives would also be asking me the fate of their fathers, the fate of these policemen.”

Albayalde added there was never a “ time that I asked for any favor. I was [only] asking for the status.”

Former PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief and now Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, who brought up the issue on "agaw-bato" cops, said [PDEA chief] Aquino told President Duterte that Albayalde had asked not to implement the dismissal order against the Pampanga cops.

"Ang ginawa ni Aquino, itinapon niya sila sa Mindanao, para meron siyang action na ginawa," Magalong said.

(What Aquino did was to deploy the cops to Pampanga so it could be said that he did something.)

The discussion went on, however, without any of the senators asking both Albayalde and Aquino to confirm or deny Magalong's claim.

In Nov. 2014, then-Region 3 Police Director Raul Petrasanta ordered the dismissal of Baloyo and his men, but this was not served and implemented immediately. In 2017, under the leadership of Chief Supt. Amador Corpus, the cops were merely demoted.

Senators grilled Aquino on why he did not immediately act on the case of the Pampanga cops. He argued that President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs had just started when he was the head of the Central Luzon police and the case was admittedly put on the back burner.

Up to this day, the Pampanga cops are still on active duty, and the justice department said it is expediting the review of their criminal cases.