Due to his “ignorance” of police titles, President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday admitted that he was wrong in his previous claim that there were two generals protecting so-called ninja cops
who resell seized narcotics.
READ: 2 ‘generals’ out of 9 tagged in illegal drug trade still at it
“No, no generals. I’m sure of that. In the report submitted to me, none. Maybe—colonel, I think,” Duterte told reporters during his arrival in Davao City after his five-day visit from Russia.
“You know, I must admit my ignorance actually. Those ranks became a trend since that sup-sup, superintendent... So I said let’s go back to previous titles: police colonel, police major, police lieutenant, because everyone is confused with that sup-sup. It was superintendent. In Visayan, sup-sup is sucking ice drops.”
“I am confused with the superintendent position because the only superintendent I know is in school,” he said.
The President’s latest statement seemed to exonerate Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Oscar Albayalde, who had been linked to ninja cops in recent testimony before the Senate.
While he was speaking in a Russian forum Thursday, Duterte said that there are at least two generals involved in the illegal drug trade.
“And right now, even as I fly here and go back, there are about again two generals who are still playing with drugs,” Duterte said in theforum held in Sochi city as he defended his anti-drug campaign before leaders and top academicians.
Duterte also said the Philippine National Police should not confuse the public with ranks and titles.
READ: Narco-cops worse than felons—Duterte
Duterte, however, did not name the superintendent he was referring to in the press conference.
Before his departure for Russia, President Duterte ordered Interior Secretary Eduardo Año to validate the findings of the Senate panel on “ninja cops” before deciding on the fate of policemen, including Albayalde, who was linked to the ninja cops scheme.
The President said he will forward to Año a copy of the Senate report to validate its findings since the PNP is under the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
The issue stemmed from Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, who identified Albayalde and 13 other policemen, as allegedly involved in recycling of illegal drugs.
In 2013, an anti-drug police team raided the residence of a certain Johnson Lee at Woodridge, Lakeshore View, Mexico town in Pampanga.
Supt. Rodney Raymundo Baloyo reportedly led the operation.
Baloyo’s team declared they confiscated only 36 kilograms of shabu, but investigators said they held back some 164 kilograms for themselves to resell.
Lee was reportedly allowed to escape in exchange for P50 million.
Albayalde denied allegations that he intervened in the dismissal of the 13 cops and said ninja cops were “a thing of the past.”
In his remarks upon returning from Russia, Duterte said he would not fire Albayalde, who is scheduled to retire on Nov. 8, because the PNP chief is still presumed innocent under the law.
“I could not just do it in a knee jerk. I have to follow procedural due process and allow him time to answer. The right to be heard. It’s given to the criminals, to the kidnappers. It should be given to a general of the Philippine National Police,” he said.
The President said he has no name in mind yet to replace Albayalde, adding that he has to “consult everybody.”
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, said Albayalde should consider early retirement, given the scandal that has developed around the ninja cops.
“Without admitting anything, he will not admit that he’s guilty, but because the prestige and image of the PNP was tainted, because of this, he might consider early retirement,” said Drilomn.
“If only for some of the image of the PNP to be recovered, he may consider it,” added Drilon.
Earlier, senators had called on the embattled PNP chief to quit his post after being accused of former PNP-CIDG chief Benjamin Magalong, and later, by PDEA director Aaron Aquino of intervening in the dismissal of his men from the Pampanga Provincial Police Office tagged in the irregular drug operations in Mexico, Pampanga in 2013.
Aquino revealed Albayalde, then pampanga police chief, asked Aquino to stop the dismissal order againat Rodney Baloyo and the other so-called ninja cops.
But Albayalde refused to heed the call of the senators, insisting he serves at the pleasure of the President.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, meanwhile, said his department will reopen the case of the 13 policemen implicated in the 2013 drug raid in Pampanga, where the alleged ninja cops kept 160 kilos of shabu and P50 million in exchange for the freedom of suspected drug lord Johnson Lee.
He said the new investigation was necessary in the light of new evidence.
Testifying before the Senate, former police official and now Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong said he got a whiff of the allegedly anomalous anti-drug drug operation after getting word that several officers, including now Albayalde, started buying new SUVs.
Albayalde was the provincial director of Pampanga police when the drug sting took place in 2013.
According to the DOJ chief, the respondents will be given “ample opportunity to present additional evidence” during the reinvestigation.
Also on Sunday, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said there was a pressing need to update and modernize the government’s approach to stopping drug syndicates.
READ: Narco-cops in two groups bared: ‘ninja liit, volt in’
READ: Duterte: Investigate Albayalde