By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Friday that the 13 alleged “ninja cops” involved in the supposed recycling of illegal drugs in Pampanga should be charged criminally, and not mere in administrative cases.
Sotto made this observation a day after the Senate Blue Ribbon and Justice Committees conducted its probe on the involvement of rogue Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel in the so-called “agaw-bato” scheme, particularly on the November 2013 operation by former Pampanga anti-illegal operatives accused of hoarding 164 kilos of seized shabu.
Retired police generals said that the operation was pockmarked with irregularities, starting with the actual time that the drug raid was conducted. They noted that the operation was conducted in the morning contrary to the report submitted by the team of Pampanga policemen.
“The group should be charged with Sec[tion] 27 of RA 9165, not Sec 21. Criminal [charges], not administrative,” Sotto, an author of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, said in a text message.
A recommendation dismissing team leader Police Lieutenant Colonel Rodney Baloyo IV and 12 his colleagues was already issued in 2014 for grave misconduct due to the anomalous operation. But PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group director Major General Amador Corpus, former Central Luzon police regional director, in 2017 downgraded the dismissal recommendation and, instead, ordered their demotion by one rank.
At the Senate hearing Thursday, it was found that “very weak” cases were filed by the PNP against Baloyo and his men, leading to reconsideration of their dismissal.
Sotto asked Corpus about his decision to downgrade the penalty for the 13 Pampanga policemen. The police official said he only relied on the “recommendation of his legal officer”.
Police Col. Judy Santos Lopez, the legal officer, said administrative charges were only filed against the alleged “ninja cops” based on violation of Section 21 of the RA 9165, which enumerates the procedure to be followed for the custody and disposition of seized illegal drugs, chemicals and other paraphernalia.
“Sasaksan pala ng hina ang chinarge sa kanila, eh (It turns out that the charges filed against them are very weak),” Sotto said, saying the cops should be sued for violating Section 27 of the law.
Section 27 of the RA 9165 states that “The penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from P500,000 to P10 million, in addition to absolute perpetual disqualification from any public office, shall be imposed upon any public officer or employee who misappropriates, misapplies or fails to account for confiscated, seized or surrendered dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment including the proceeds or properties.”
In a television interview Friday, Sotto said the Senate was mulling amendments to Republic Act No. 8551, or the PNP Law so that policemen will be slapped with heftier penalties for violating the anti-illegal drug law.