Sen. Richard Gordon shows a copy of the preliminary report on ‘ninja cops’ at the Senate yesterday.
Geremy Pintolo
Blue Ribbon: PNP chief, ‘ninjas’ liable for graft, drugs
Robertzon Ramirez, Christina Mendez, Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - October 19, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – After considering the “totality” of testimonies of witnesses and circumstantial evidence in its inquiry, the Senate Blue Ribbon committee has recommended the filing of drug and graft charges against former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde and 13 of his former subordinates, in connection with the drug raid in Mexico, Pampanga in 2013, where a bulk of the nearly P1 billion worth of seized methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu was pilfered.

Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the committee, presented yesterday the draft report on its inquiry into the so-called “ninja cops” or PNP officers involved in illegal drugs, a copy of which was sent to President Duterte through Sen. Christopher Go.

The 46-page preliminary report has yet to be signed by other members of the committee but Senate President Vicente Sotto III – who is in Serbia for the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference with 10 other senators – indicated to Gordon that they will sign the document after receiving copies of it via email.

Go said he still needs to read and review the committee report before he decides whether to sign it or not. 

While presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the Palace will likely consider the outcome of the Senate Blue Ribbon report, it can’t be predicted whether Duterte – also a lawyer – would accept the findings against Albayalde and his men.

Duterte had earlier berated Gordon for questioning his decision to appoint retired military officers in the Cabinet.

During the command conference last Tuesday in Malacañang, sources said Duterte had also expressed his serious apprehensions on the motives of Gordon, as well as Sen. Panfilo Lacson, in pursuing the inquiry.  

Gordon said Albayalde apparently led a “monumental cover-up” after the raid led by Police Maj. Rodney Baloyo IV on Nov. 29, 2013, where the policemen allegedly took away huge amounts of cash, vehicles and over 160 kilos out of the 200 kilos of shabu they seized from the residence of a suspect, identified as Johnson Lee.

At the time of the raid, Albayalde was still a colonel and Pampanga provincial director, while Baloyo was his intelligence officer. An internal PNP investigation shortly after the raid also discovered that Lee was freed in exchange for P50 million, and was replaced with a Chinese national, Ding Wengkum, who was presented to the media as the suspected drug trafficker.

“This (raid) was no buy-bust. The real intention was ‘hulidap’,” Gordon said at a press conference in the Senate, even as he described Albayalde as the “biggest fish ever” the committee has netted in the course of its investigation into “ninja cops.”

Albayalde stepped down as PNP chief on Monday as the controversy on the raid raged. This is the first time he was officially recommended to be charged in connection with the raid. A previous PNP probe found nothing against him after he was relieved from his post and placed on “floating status” for eight months in 2014.

Among the possible charges that may be filed against Albayalde are violation of Section 27 of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, which is punishable by life imprisonment to death; a fine ranging from P500,000 to P10 million and perpetual disqualification from public office, according to a summary of the committee report.

The section deals with instances where an officer of the law misappropriates or fails to account for confiscated drugs, precursors and paraphernalia.

Albayalde may also be liable for violation of the Revised Penal Code and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act in allegedly calling his former superiors – then PNP generals Aaron Aquino in 2016 and Rudy Lacadin in 2014 – in an apparent attempt to stop the dismissal of his men.

He could also be liable for violating another provision in the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for causing “undue injury” to the state, and to Lee and Ding.

At the very least, Albayalde could be charged for negligence, Gordon continued.

Aside from the recommended charges against Albayalde, the committee also recommended that Baloyo and those under him be charged with unlawful arrest, planting of evidence and robbery, as well as civil damages.

Gordon said the report, once officially adopted by the Senate, will be forwarded to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of the Ombudsman to be used for the possible filing of charges.

“This report will surely be useful in the reinvestigation of the alleged drug recycling or ‘ninja cops’ case currently being conducted by the DOJ,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

Guevarra said he will review the Blue Ribbon committee’s report first before coming out with any comment on the issue, but said the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) may amend its complaint so that it will be included in their investigation.

Gordon said the senators were initially skeptical of the allegations against Albayalde – first raised in the inquiry by former PNP-CIDG head and now Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong – but as the hearings wore on, and after given all the time to defend himself, the former PNP chief was found to be much more involved in the questioned raid than he professed himself to be. 

He said all Albayalde could show to the committee in his defense was his recommendation to promote Baloyo and the rest – and surprisingly himself – for what he saw was a successful anti-drug raid.

Since 2013 until recently, the beleaguered PNP general never did anything significant to have Baloyo and the others sanctioned, the senator continued. Instead, Albayalde called up Aquino, who was PNP Region 3 chief in 2016, asking that the dismissal orders against his men not be implemented.

RICHARD GORDON
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