By Hannah Torregoza and Ellson Quismorio
Senators grilled Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino on Wednesday why he left the case of Police Major Rodney Baloyo and the 12 other police officers involved in the anomalous drug raid in Mexico, Pampanga in 2013 unattended in his desk.
Senator Panfilo Lacson noted that the case folder on Baloyo and his men have already been submitted to Aquino, who was then police director of Region 3.
The folder contained the papers recommending the dismissal of Baloyo and his team.
Brig. Gen. Graciano Mijares, Directorate Personnel Records and Management (DPRM) said he submitted the case folder to Aquino who told him to leave it on his desk.
“I told him sir, eto napo yung fina-follow up ni Gen. (Benjamin) Magalong, dismissal napo (ang recommendation). And I can remember what he said: ilagay mo lang yan sa table ko at ipapa-review ko yan,” Mijares told Senate probers during the resumption of the hearing on the “ninja cops.”
After several months, Mijares said he learned that Baloyo and his men were deployed to Mindanao sometime in November 2016.
As far as he is concerned, there was no problem on the main case, as it clearly recommended the dismissal of the police officers involved in the Pampanga raid.
“Nagkaloko-loko sa (filing ng) motion for reconsideration (nina Baloyo). We want to find out pwede ba isubmit ang records of the case and downgrading of penalty from dismissal to demotion?” Lacson pointed out.
“When I looked at case folder pinayagan nyo mag-file ng collective motion for reconsideration. Di ba … dapat individual ang motion for reconsideration?” Lacson said.
“Nagkaroon ng decision partially granting motion for recommendation. Ang dismissal naging demotion. Yan ang nakakapagtaka. Binasa namin walang discussion,” he stressed.
Lacson said he cannot understand why Aquino’s decision back then was to review the case, when it was already reviewed by his legal officers.
“Nung dismissal to demotion, pina-review mo. Nung dismissal na talaga, pina-review mo ulit? To me it defies logic.
Kung ako yung commander, pina-review ko yung demotion, bumalik sayo dismissal, dahil original naman talaga ay dismissal, walang katapusang back and forth ito.. bumalik sa table niya para i-review?” Lacson pointed out.
“Ang sinabi mo ‘iwan mo sa table ko, at ipapa-review ko ulit. But you never did that. You never had it reviewed. Kasi walang dumating sa kanya eh. Nandun na lang, lying idle on your table,” Lacson surmised.
But Aquino said he could not really recall if the case folder was left on his table as his desk is being cleaned regularly by his secretary and could have been kept by his staff. It was not known what action Aquino took on the recommendation cited in the report.
According to P/Lt. Col. Eugene Bagamaspad, one of the legal officers who handled Baloyo’s case and a member of the summary hearing board, the case records were returned to them on Feb. 16, 2017 after several months. No action was taken on the documents.
Bagasmad admitted that the case was referred to his committee twice recommending the dismissal of the Pampanga 13 but was returned to him again, this time recommending a demotion in rank.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who was present during the hearing, noted that there seems to be a grand cover up in the case of the Pampanga 13.
“In the minds of the committee, and I’m sure in the public, there appears to be a cover up of all of these,” Drilon said.
“It took (PNP) personnel from Nov. 2014, to March 2016, six months to serve the dismissal order. The question now is, who sat on this?” Drilon pointed out.
He believes that an “unseen hand” intervened in the implementation of a dismissal order against Baloyo and his team.
Drilon pointed to the lengthy delays and subsequent watering down of the dismissal order that was initially handed down in November 14, 2014 by then-Region 3 Police Director Raul Petrasanta against Baloyo and his men.
“It was only served on March , 2016, when you signed the dismissal order on November 2014, or a period of  months, the case folder slept somewhere. Saan kaya natulog yun? (Where did the case take a nap?) Drilon wondered as he interpellated Petrasanta Wednesday during the joint hearing of the Justice and Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on the “ninja cops” controversy.
“Because that would indicate that indeed there was some unseen hand intervening. Bibigyan muna ng sleeping pills yung kaso para matulog (The case was given sleeping pills so it may sleep),” Drilon said.
The Senate was told that Baloyo’s group confiscated about 200 kilos of shabu during a November 29, 2013 raid at the house of one Johnson Lee in a subdivision in Mexico, Pampanga. But Baloyo and his men only declared 38 kilos.
An investigation conducted by then Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief now Baguio City mayor Benjamin Magalong showed that Baloyo and his men confiscated a box filled with money which was not presented nor mentioned in the after-operation report.
The involved police officers were ultimately demoted in November 2017 instead of being booted out of the service.
“This is what we’re trying to figure out. Because in my count, it took about 48 months from November of 2013 to the final act of demotion on November 2017. A total of 48 months from the incident,” Drilon said.
“After the MR (motion for reconsideration) was filed on March 14, 2016, it took another 20 months for the demotion to be implemented. Dinemote na nga, dinelay pa (It was downgraded to demotion and delayed to boot).
“This is truly unusual and I myself am not convince that there was no effort to delay this, to sit on this deliberately for the agenda of some people,” added the Liberal Party (LP) lawmaker.
According to Petrasanta, he forwarded the dismissal order to the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame for action after he signed it.
But Lacson, a former PNP chief, was not convinced since the involved cops filed their joint MR only on March 14, 2016.
“Because due process [dictates], kailangan maantay yung MR. Hindi pa pwedeng ipadala…sa Crame, hindi pa implementable (the MR has to be resolved. It can’t be sent to Crame yet since it’s not yet implementable),” Lacson said.
Petrasanta admitted shortly, “Actually hindi ko na po namonitor yung series of events…mayroon pong OIC na pumalit sa akin (Actually I failed to monitor the series of events…I was replaced by an officer-in-charge).”
Lacson said that the case “definitely didn’t sleep in Crame.”
“Masyadong mainit itong kasong ito, ha? Ang tawag dyan sa street language ay iwas-pusoy, ha? (This case is very sensitive, huh? We call that ‘iwas-pusoy’ in street language). That’s the impression that we get,” commented Drilon.
“Somebody who was, you know…powerful enough na ayaw niyong i-implement…for whatever reason, iwas-pusoy ang tawag dyan (There was somebody powerful enough that you didn’t want to implement it, for whatever reason, we call that iwas-pusoy),” he added.