By Jeffrey Damicog and Aaron Recuenco
Former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Oscar Albayalde was charged on Monday before the Department of Justice (DOJ) for his alleged involvement with the 13 so-called “ninja cops” implicated in the questionable 2013 anti-illegal drugs operations in Pampanga.
Albayalde was included in the amended complaint filed by PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) before the DOJ special panel of prosecutors handling the re-investigation of the case.
This developed as three of the 13 policemen linked to the Pampanga operation were ordered dismissed from the service in connection with the allegedly anomalous anti-illegal drug operation in Antipolo City in May this year, Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa, officer-in-charge of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said.
In the filing the amended complaint that includes Albayalde, the PNP-CIDG presented additional evidence before the DOJ panel, including witnesses as well as the transcripts of the Senate hearings conducted over the “ninja cops” issue.
“Totality of the evidence shows that he (Albayalde) is probably liable,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Orsos, chief of the PNP-CIDG legal division, told reporters following the hearing before the panel.
“Kasama rin doon of course yung mga admission sa Senate investigation (This of course includes admissions during the Senate investigation),” he added.
Orsos also defended the PNP-CIDG’s decision not to file a separate complaint against Albayalde before the Office of the Ombudsman.
“Kung ise-separate pa natin, it will take time pa. Dito na lang. Let the panel decide kung ano gagawin (It will take time if it becomes a separate case. Just file it here. Let the panel decide what to do with the case),” the PNP official explained.
With the filing of the amended complaint, Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Alexander Suarez, who chairs the panel, gave the respondents until November 5 to submit their respective counter-affidavits to refute the allegations against them.
The case concerns the 2013 illegal drugs operations in Mexico, Pampanga, in which members of the Pampanga Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force, led by Supt. Rodney Raymundo Louie Baloyo IV at that time, seized around 200 kilograms of methamphethamine hydrochloride, locally known as shabu, P55 million in cash, and a Toyota Fortuner.
But after the operation, the 13 policemen failed to account for the confiscated items and even failed to prosecute alleged Chinese drug trader Johnson Lee, who was believed freed in exchange for a portion of the illegal drugs, the cash, and the vehicle.
At that time, Albayalde was the police provincial director of Pampanga.
In its complaint, the PNP-CIDG recommended that the panel finds probable cause to indict Albayalde in court for violating Articles 171 (falsification by public officer) and 208 (negligence and tolerance) of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).
The PNP-CIDG also recommended that Albayalde be indicted along with the 13 alleged “ninja cops” for violation of Section 27 (failure to account for the seized drugs) of Article II of Republic Act 9165 (the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002) and Section 3, paragraph (e) of RA 3019 (the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act).
The 13 other respondents are Baloyo, Senior Inspector Joven De Guzman Jr., SPO1 Jules Maniago, SPO1 Donald Roque, SPO1 Ronald Bayas Santos, SPO1 Rommel Vital, SPO1 Alcindor Tinio, SPO1 Dante Dizon, SPO1 Eligio Valeroso, PO3 Dindo Dizon, PO3 Gilbert De Vera, PO3 Romeo Guerrero Jr., and PO2 Anthony Lacsamana.
“Instead of conducting an investigation over his personnel, he (Albayalde) rather recommended the personnel involved for the issuance of award. The raiding team admitted to be reporting to the then PD Albayalde about the operation during the Senate hearing. After the operation, several security guards of the Woodbridge Subdivision and barangay officials testified to have witnesses the seizure of the black Toyota Fortuner and the large quantity of shabu but failed to declare the said Fortuner, with only a small portion of the large quantity of shabu declared,” read the PNP-CIDG’s amended referral complaint.
“General Albayalde even attempted to persuade or influence former regional director of Police Regional Office 3, Police Chief Superintendent Aaron Aquino, from implementing the decision of the administrative charges against the group of PSupt. Reymond Baloyo. Furthermore, General Albayalde even called the former Deputy Director for Operation of CIDG, Police Chief Superintendent Rudy Lacadin to influence the latter in the validation process over the matter being conducted by the CIDG,” it added.
The complaint also recommended that the 13 be indicted for violating Article 211-A (qualified bribery of the RPC and for violating other provisions of RA 9165, particularly, Section 29 (planting of evidence) and 32 (liability of a person violating regulations of the Dangerous Drugs Board) of of Article II and Section 92 (delay and bungling in the prosecution of drug cases) of Article XI.
It was also recommended that Baloyo be indicted with two counts of violating Article 171 of the RPC.
The PNP-CIDG also sought the indictment of De Guzman, Santos and Guerrero for violating Article 183 (false testimony and perjury) of the RPC.
Three cops dismissed
Meanwhile, the three policemen dismissed over the Antipolo City drug raid were Master Sgt. Donald Roque, Master Sgt. Rommel Vital, and Corporal Romeo Guerrero.
The three, along with Police Lt. Joven de Guzman, were recommended for dismissal by the Internal Affairs Service (IAS) in connection with the Antipolo drug raid which started when they intercepted a motorist at a checkpoint.
The victim sped off with the car and sought refuge in their house which was eventually raided by the policemen.
“I received the folder on October 17 and I approved the dismissal of the three,” said Gamboa.
The official, however, said he referred back the folder of De Guzman to IAS for review since he could not be dismissed as he was only charged with a lesser offense of less grave misconduct.
“He could not be charged with less grave… then during the resolution he would be given a heavy penalty… this is not part of the due process,” said Gamboa.
Instead, Gamboa ordered a 59-day suspension on De Guzman.
“However, I returned the case folder to IAS for him to be tried for a graver offense because in the course of the investigation, they found out that the degree of the participation of an official is far more than what he was charged for,” said Gamboa.
Once De Guzman is pinned down on a graver offense, it is expected that he too shall be dismissed from the service.
De Guzman and the three other cops were assigned to Antipolo City police after they were pulled out from Mindanao allegedly upon the request of the Pampanga Prosecutor’s Office to enable them to attend court hearings. Aquino had them assigned to Mindanao after Albayalde, then PNP chief, allegedly intervened not to implement the dismissal of the 13 cops in Pampanga drug raid.
During the Senate probe, the senators questioned the letter from Pampanga Prosecutor’s Office.
Independent IAS pushed
With the controversy rocking the PNP, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Monday that he will push in Congress the proposal to make the Internal Affairs Service (IAS) an independent institution to discipline police scalawags.
“I will [file a bill on this]. I’m already drafting it. I will also consult Sen. [Panfilo] Lacson,” Sotto said in a text message.
Sotto said separating the IAS would be the solution to rid the 190,000-man police force of bad eggs and regain the public’s trust following the “ninja cops” controversy that led to the resignation of Albayalde as the country’s top cop.
“The key to all this for us to pluck out the IAS from the PNP and place it under the Office of the President,” the Senate chief said. (With a report from Vanne P. Terrazola)