PNP: Albayalde, 'ninja cops' innocent until proven guilty

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Saturday, October 19, that it will let "fairness and due process of law take its course" in relation to  resigned chief General Oscar Albayalde and the 13 alleged "ninja cops" under reinvestigation over an anomalous drug operation in 2013.

The PNP issued the statement a day after the  Senate blue ribbon and justice committees recommended the filing of criminal charges against Albayalde and 13 cops who used to serve under him when he was Pampanga police chief.

"The PNP will let justice, fairness, and due process of law take its course. All accused remain innocent until proven guilty," the PNP said in a statement sent to reporters, who asked for a comment on the Senate panels' recommendation.

"We leave it to Police General Oscar Albayalde and the other concerned PNP personnel, with their respective legal teams to address the other side issues that may come with their possible criminal indictment as recommended by the Senate panel," the PNP added.

In November 2013, the 13 cops reported a buy-bust operation that yielded over 30 kilograms of shabu (methamphetamine) and the arrest of a one suspect in Mexico, Pampanga. Months later, an independent police probe revealed that the cops did not declare over 160 kilograms of shabu and arrested a fall guy instead of the real suspect.

Details about the operation, which happened under the nose of then Pampanga police chief Albayalde, and incidents related to it were incidentally revived during the Senate hearing on drug recycling and became the primary focus of the Senate investigation. During the hearings, it was revealed that Albayalde allegedly intervened twice in the case.

Senate blue ribbon chairman Richard Gordon said in a briefing on Friday that Albayalde "caused undue injury to the State," and that the 13 cops were "guilty of malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance." (READ: 'Spectacle of a grand cover-up': Senate hearing bares how 'ninja cops' remain in service)

The report has been forwarded to the Department of Justice and the Office of the Ombudsman, which would then decide on the complaints against the cops. The DOJ began reinvestigating the case following the revelations at the Senate hearings.

The cops were initially ordered dismissed, following a PNP investigation of the drug raid, but the punishment was eventually downgraded to a one-rank demotion.

Since the Senate hearings, the 13 cops had been placed on floating status while Albayalde is technically on non-duty status – the equivalent of a terminal leave for civilian agencies – which means he still keeps the 4-star rank of PNP chief until he retires on November 8 at the latest.

President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier defended Albayalde from criticism over the latter's alleged involvement in the 2013 drug operation, and even said he would wait for the results of the investigation of Interior Secretary Eduardo Año into the case, but later accepted Albayalde's resignation. 

Duterte had also expressed frustration over the persistence of rogue cops under his watch, which had been magnified by the Senate hearings.

In response to this, the PNP assured the President on Saturday: "The PNP is responsive to the President Duterte’s challenge and the public’s call for change. We fully understand his frustrations and misgivings over the recent turn of events involving some PNP personnel. But we will not let him down," it said.

"We assure our people that the PNP remains on track with renewed vigor to reform itself into the ideal shape to fight crime, illegal drugs, and corruption," the PNP added. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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