MANILA (UPDATE) - A November 2013 anti-narcotics operation that turned into an "agaw-bato" operation was only uncovered after intelligence officers who conducted the raid started buying new SUVs.
Former Philippine National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief and now Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong said then-PNP chief Alan Purisima asked him in February 2014 to investigate a Nov. 29, 2013 anti-drug operation conducted by several cops in Woodbridge Subdivision in Mexico, Pampanga.
"'Benjie, imbestigahan mo nga ito. Just recently, nagkaroon ng operasyon itong mga bata sa Pampanga. Meron silang nakuhang 30-plus na kilos ng shabu pero bigla silang nagkaroon ng magagandang sasakyan sabay-sabay'," he recalled Purisima as saying.
The CIDG probe revealed that the cops seized some 200 kilos of shabu during the raid but only declared 38 kilos seized. The cops kept 160 kilos of shabu worth around P648 million, Magalong said.
Witnesses said there was so much shabu that it took 4 people to carry an oversized luggage full of drugs outside the house, he said.
"Apat na tao ang nagbubuhat at kitang-kita nila 'yung shabu ay tumutulo pa...There was no proper handling of evidence," he said.
Magalong said the police team also made off with an estimated P10 million seized during the drug raid, which targeted Chinese national Johnson Lee.
He said an investigation revealed that the police let Lee go in exchange for P50 million. Another Chinese national who was nabbed from Clark Freeport Zone, identified in earlier reports as Ding Wengkun, was presented as the suspect in the case.
"Those who witnessed the turnover said:' Sir, hindi naman 'yan 'yung nahuli'," Magalong said.
Magalong identified the cops involved in the operation as Sr. Insp. Joven de Guzman Jr., SPO1 Jules Maniago, SPO1 Ronald Santos, SPO1 Donald Roque, SPO1 Rommel Vital, SPO1 Alcinador Tinio, PO3 Dindo Dizon, PO3 Gilbert De Vera, PO3 Romeo Guerrero, PO2 Anthony Loleng Lacsamana, SPO1 Eligio Valeroso, and SPO1 Dante Dizon.
Magalong said the team was led by then-Supt. Rodney Baloyo.
Baloyo and his former team members were present in the hearing, except for Santos and Dizon.
Then-Region 3 Police Director Raul Petrasanta filed cases against Baloyo's team, but Magalong said the case was too weak that he requested the official to withdraw the case.
“When we went over the criminal case and had it reviewed by our lawyers, it turned out po na napakahina ng kaso na nafile, what I did was to confer with Gen. Purisima,” he said.
“We conducted our investigation and we made sure we would have a strong case against these respondents.”
Magalong said he retired from the police force with the case still pending. In 2017, he learned that Baloyo and his men were merely demoted by then-Central Luzon police chief Amador Corpus.
PNP chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde, the Pampanga police chief at the time, was relieved from duty in the wake of the allegedly anomalous operation.
During Tuesday’s Senate hearing, Albayalde maintained his innocence amid allegations he had a hand in the alleged “agaw-bato” scheme.
“I have endeavored to prove that I am worthy of the confidence reposed upon me by the President. I still endeavor to do so today,” he said.