MANILA - Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Police Gen. Oscar Albayalde on Wednesday lamented he was being “crucified” after another former high-ranking police official tagged him in the case of his former subordinates tagged as “ninja cops.”
Denying fresh allegations he partook of the drug loot from a 2013 raid, Albayalde told a Senate hearing: “It seems that everybody is ganging up on me, I really don’t know.”
“It’s as if I’m being crucified already,” he added, asking why he was not earlier charged.
With just over a month before his retirement, Albayalde is in hot water for allegedly intervening in the case of 13 Pampanga police officers ordered dismissed for allegedly pilfering millions worth of meth seized during a 2013 raid in Mexico, Pampanga.
Former PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief Benjamin Magalong and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino accused Albayalde of intervening in the case of the Pampanga officers.
The two retired police officials said Albayalde, then chief of Pampanga police, made calls to ensure they would be spared from being axed.
During Wednesday’s hearing, former Central Luzon police chief Rudy Lacadin said Albayalde not only tried to influence the outcome of the investigation but even admitted partaking in the drug loot.
"There was a time that during the investigation… he called me up. [He said] ‘Sir, parang naimbestigahan niyo raw kami (Sir I heard you were investigating us),’” Lacadin said at the continuation of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee's inquiry into alleged ninja cops.
“Yes Oca, I cannot inform you na nag-coconduct ako ng investigation, but if you have nothing to hide wala naman kayong dapat katakutan (You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide),” he recalled telling Albayalde.
Lacadin said Albayalde then replied: “Actually sir kaunti lang naman ang napunta sa akin (Actually, sir, only a little went to me)."
“I don’t know if he was joking,” Lacadin said.
NO SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE
Magalong claimed there were police officers who wanted to testify against Albayalde but backed out, supposedly out of fear for their safety.
Former PNP chief Alan Purisima, who ordered the probe on the Pampanga officers, said investigators did not have enough evidence to pin Albayalde down, which is why he was spared from charges and even managed to get the top post in the police force.
It was Magalong, a former CIDG chief and now Baguio City mayor, who tapped Lacadin, then the CIDG deputy director for operations, to conduct an investigation into the questioned buy-bust operation.
Magalong backed Lacadin’s claims, saying Albayalde was lying.
“Someone here is lying. I'm pretty sure it is not Gen. Lacadin, it’s not me, not the other officers, but someone else. Siya po (it's him)," Magalong said, pointing to Albayalde who was seated near him.
Magalong added he was among those who sought to block Albayalde’s promotion as a one-star general, citing the Pampanga case. He said during the board’s deliberation of Albayalde's promotion, the latter denied being complicit to the illegal operation.
Albayalde, as Pampanga police chief, was relieved from duty in 2014 after a group of Pampanga police officers, led by then Supt. Rodney Baloyo, allegedly made off with some 160 kilograms of shabu worth around P648 million at the time following a 2013 raid on alleged drug lord, Chinese Johnson Lee.
Baloyo’s team also allegedly set Lee free and presented another Chinese suspect, identified in reports as Ding Wengkun, in exchange for P50 million.
Maintaining innocence in the allegations against him, Albayalde has rejected calls for his resignation ahead of his Nov. 8 retirement.
He, however, conceded Wednesday that his call to Aquino was indeed “very inappropriate,” even as he argued that he only did it to update the relatives of his former subordinates about the status of their case.
Aquino, however, said Albayalde did not just ask about the status of the case when he and the PNP chief were still the regional police chiefs in Central Luzon and Metro Manila, respectively. He said Albayalde also asked him to stop the dismissal of the cops.
Aquino did not act on the Pampanga cops' case and merely sent them to Mindanao. He said he was overwhelmed at the time by the amount of work in the government's war on drugs.
After being in limbo for three years, the dismissal order for the Pampanga officers was reduced to a one-rank demotion, a move that angered senators.
‘NOT A VERY SECURE PLACE’
With Lacadin’s allegation, Albayalde seems to be “not [in] a very, very secure place” now, said panel chair Sen. Richard Gordon.
“Napakabigat ng binitawan ni Rudy Lacadin (Lacadin made a very serious allegation)," Gordon told reporters.
"A retired general will not normally say that. I gave Gen. Albayalde the whole time to [explain himself], ang dami rin kumukontra sa kaniya (there are many contradicting him), all the generals."
Gordon also chided Albayalde for not giving clear and direct answers to questions surrounding his involvement in the Pampanga cops’ operation.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, meanwhile, agreed that Lacadin’s allegation, which was also detailed in an affidavit he submitted to the Senate, was serious.
“Mahirap sanggahin 'yung mga ganung statements, plus [mahirap] ma-establish na may galit si Lacadin,” Sotto told reporters.
(It’s hard to refute such claims, plus it’s hard to establish that Lacadin was harboring grudge.)
Sotto added that unless Albayalde is able to clearly explain and defend himself, Lacadin’s statement may be considered “damaging.”
President Rodrigo Duterte has said he would wait for the Senate’s investigation before deciding on Albayalde’s fate, but Gordon said the PNP chief would have to face the appropriate charges whether he retires early or not.