Police investigator clears Albayalde in 2013 'ninja cops' buy-bust

MANILA, Philippines – The police official who investigated the anomalous buy-bust by Pampanga "ninja cops" in 2013 said he found no evidence implicating Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Oscar Albayalde in it.

"'Yung amin pong investigation, in fairness to General Albayalde, wala naman po kaming nakitang evidence or testimony implicating him (Our investigation, in fairness to General Albayalde, yielded no evidence or testimony implicating him)," said Brigadier General Manuel Gaerlan, now retired, before the Senate on Thursday, October 3.

Gaerlan was the investigator assigned to probe the 2013 buy-bust, which he concluded to be a farce. He recommended for the operatives' dismissal and the relief of Albayalde for "command responsibility."

A few days ago, Albayalde told reporters he was confident Gaerlan would help explain what happened. Both belong to the PNP Special Action Force. 

What happened in the operation? On November 29, 2013, 13 Pampanga cops mounted what they claimed was a buy-bust operation. (READ: 'Spectacle of a grand cover-up': Senate hearing bares how 'ninja cops' remain in service)

But upon investigation by the police then, they stashed away over a hundred kilograms of methamphetamine (shabu), accepted bribes, and arrested a fall guy, leading for the recommendation for their dismissal.

Why does this matter? Senators have been probing whether Albayalde knew of the illegal operation and if he had any participation. Gaerlan said he did not.

Albayalde was not off the hook, however, as Senator Richard Gordon repeatedly pressed him to admit that he should have regularly asked for updates in the operation, and check the legitimacy of the operation of his subordinates.

Albayalde defended himself, saying "presumption of regularity" was on the side of the operatives.

Where Albayalde is not cleared yet: Albayalde is still accused of delaying the dismissal of the 13 cops years later when he was already Metro Manila police chief in late 2016.

According to former Central Luzon police chief and now Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency boss Aaron Aquino, Albayalde asked him "not to implement the [dismissal] order."

Aquino asked Albayalde then – between July and December 2016 – why Albayalde was asking. Albayalde apparently said "Kasi, Sir, mga tao ko 'yan (Because, Sir, those are my people)." – Rappler.com

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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.