By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang said it was now up to former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde to defend himself in court, saying he can exercise all legal remedies available to every Filipino.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo made the statement after prosecutors from the Department of Justice (DOJ) found probable cause to charge Albayalde and 12 other police officers in court in connection with a drug operation in Pampanga in 2013.
In a text message Friday, Panelo said the DOJ has finished its task and it was now up to Albayalde to defend himself.
“The DOJ just did its job. Gen Albayalde will now have a forum to address the charge. He can avail of all legal remedies. The Constitution accords him the presumption of innocence,” he said.
“Let the law take its course. Let the courts render its judgment in accordance with [the] law.”
Meanwhile, Panelo said the Palace’s stand on the drug war will not change. “The Administration remains steadfast against illegal drugs as well as police officers who abuse their authority. Such policy remains unchanged.”
A special panel formed by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra indicted Albayalde and 12 so-called “ninja cops” for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for his supposed failure to implement an order penalizing 13 policemen who were involved in a controversial drug operation in 2013.
However, the panel did not recommend charging Albayalde over the alleged irregular drug raid, noting there was no law that provides for criminal liability due to command responsibility.
The ninja cops issue prompted Albayalde to step down from his post weeks ahead of his scheduled retirement in November 2019. Since then, the PNP has been operating under the leadership of officer-in-charge Gen. Archie Gamboa.
President Duterte tasked Interior Secretary Eduardo Año to lead and fix the PNP after saying he cannot choose anybody from the ranks to lead the organization.
Duterte also said the PNP was one of the problems the government’s drug war was facing, adding that there are still police officers involved in the illegal drug trade.
“You have to go for the jugular. You have to purge the PNP,” he said in an interview with ABS-CBN last week.