Duterte to await Año probe before deciding on Albayalde's fate

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte will wait for the Senate to wrap up its probe on "ninja cops" and for Interior Secretary Eduardo Año to submit his own report about the controversy before deciding whether or not to dismiss Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Oscar Albayalde.

"The most proper thing to do, which is in line with procedural due process, is to wait for the closure of the investigation by the Senate," Duterte said on Tuesday night, October 1, in a press conference before departing for Moscow, Russia, for an official visit.

"When it is forwarded to me since the police is under the Department of the Interior and Local Government, it's a bureau under Secretary Año, I will forward it to him, give him a specific period to complete his investigation," Duterte continued.

Año's report would be the basis of his decision, said the Chief Executive, who also gave assurances he would be objective.

"I can dismiss, discharge, terminate any and all of them so I'll wait for that. But I will be fair," he said.

But Albayalde, who was present during Duterte's press conference, is retiring in a month, specifically on November 8. 

What does Duterte think of Albayalde? Duterte had watched the Senate hearing earlier on Tuesday in which Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino accused Albayalde of intervening in the dismissal of 13 "ninja cops" in 2013. Albayalde denied the accusation.

Duterte was pressed for his opinion of Albayalde during the press conference.

Though he repeated his decision to wait for Año's report, Duterte appeared to share what was on his mind, though his halting sentences made it unclear what he meant.

"If you really want to know, this does not bind Secretary Año of what might be his conclusion, he was, Albayalde, was, happened to be the provincial police director at that time but the ninja cops, that is his only – well, if you have to insist that his only link, those personnel, uh who was, were, under his command – after that point, I don't know if Secretary Año would – I do not want to preempt," Duterte said.

He ended his remarks on Albayalde by saying that if he does decide to fire the police chief, he would do so only if he had sufficient proof of wrongdoing.

"If it comes to a serious thing as dismissing a top official here and there, it has to be for a good reason and there must be enough proof," the Commander-in-Chief said.

What is the 'ninja cops' controversy? The "ninja cops" issue was revived during the 2020 budget hearing of the PDEA in which its chief, Aquino, told lawmakers of cops who recycle confiscated illegal drugs to make money.

In a Senate hearing that was supposed to be about the Good Conduct Time Allowance law, the "ninja cops" controversy took up a chunk of the discussion, with Aquino and Magalong baring their claims about Albayalde.

Even before that, Albayalde, Aquino, and Magalong had met separately with Duterte to discuss the issue on September 26.

Albayalde assured the President that a "ninja cops syndicate" had been dismantled even before his stint as PNP chief and that the police force continues to cleanse its ranks of corrupt cops. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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