“His continued stay as PNP chief has become untenable. His resignation ahead of his mandatory retirement, however, will not in any way clear him from his liability, both administratively or criminally, in connection with the Pampanga ninja cops issue,” Drilon said, referring to allegations that Albayalde intervened to stop the dismissal of 13 of his policemen accused of keeping 160 kilos of shabu from a drug raid for resale.
Albayalde, who took over the PNP in April 2018, was set to retire by Nov. 8 but announced his immediate resignation Monday at the flag ceremony in Camp Crame, his last days in office tainted by controversy.
In an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN News, Albayalde said stepping down was the “best decision to protect the morale of the police force, given the circumstances.”
Senator Christopher Go, a close aide to President Rodrigo Duterte, said the Chief Executive had wanted Albayalde to go on terminal leave after he was linked to the ninja cops.
It countered a statement made by Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo, who told the ABS-CBN News Channel the Palace did not pressure the police chief to step down.
“I do not think so. I have not heard of anything leading or leaning to that,” Panelo told ANC on Monday.
“Perhaps he has had enough of the accusations, innuendos, about his involvement in the drug case, given that his family is suffering from according to him, unfair and false allegations against him,” he added.
Drilon was among the first to call for Albayalde’s resignation “to save the PNP from embarrassment.”
He also said Albayalde might have had a hand in the ninja cops cover-up.
“Albayalde’s continued defense, and his failure to condemn the acts, of Major Rodney Baloyo, and his men, in the face of the evidence indicated complicity in the criminal conduct of his men,” Drilon said.
The Senate Blue Ribbon and justice committees learned of the so-called ninja cops from testimony by former police officials who said Baloyo and his men conducted a drug raid in Mexico, Pampanga, in 2013, but turned over only 38 kilos of the 200 kilos of shabu that was confiscated.
In light of these controversies, Drilon urged a stricter vetting procedure for PNP officers.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former police chief, said he has mixed feelings about the way Albayalde abruptly ended his service less than four weeks before his compulsory retirement.
Being a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy like Albayalde, Lacson said he felt sad whenever a fellow graduates slug it out publicly over issue that hit the very core of the cadet honor system.
On the other hand, Lacson praised Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong and retired general Manuel Gaerlan and others who testified in the committee hearings for spilling the beans on Baloyo and his men—and Albatyalde’s involvement.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, however, said the administration had a habit of recycling officials who had disgraced themselves, instead of going after them for corruption or negligence.
He said Albayalde and the rest should be charged for the very least enriching themselves using their government office.
Instead of combatting illegal drugs, this administration has acted in the opposite direction and coddled the corrupt and those linked to the drug trade, he said.
Senator Richard Gordon, who led Senate hearings into police corruption, said the findings and recommendations of his committee would be released Wednesday.
Asked if the committee would recommend criminal charges against Albayalde, Baloyo, and his men, Gordon said: “We will probe further on the whereabouts of the missing shabu because it is a serious threat to our peace and order; and we will definite make a recommendation to the Ombudsman on the criminal liabilities who ever they are.”
In his testimony before the Senate, former Central Luzon police director Rudy Lacadin said Albayalde had called him to inquire on the status of the ninja cops case and reportedly told him he only got a small cut from their operation.
Earlier, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Aaron Aquino also testified that when he was still regional chief for Central Luzon, Albayalde called him up and asked him not to carry out the dismissal order against the 13 ninja cops, saying they were his men.
Albayalde’s resignation comes days after two former police officials implicated him in a 2013 raid in which officers in a province near Manila allegedly seized and then sold parts of a large methamphetamine haul.
One former official alleged Albayalde protected the officers from discipline, while the other claimed he received money from the drug sale.
Albayalde, then the province commander, has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
“I thank President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for his trust and confidence,” Albayalde said in a message announcing his departure, which is effective immediately.
Though the issue has been bubbling for weeks in Senate hearings, Duterte has remained largely silent on the matter.
He had pledged to root out deep-seated corruption in the Philippines’ police but has repeatedly expressed frustration and anger with the extent of the problem.
“After careful thought and deliberation, I have come to the decision to relinquish my post as chief, PNP effective today and go on a non-duty status,” Albayalde said in his resignation statement. “I have submitted my letter of intent to Secretary [Eduardo] Año which he accepted and favorably endorsed to the President.”
In a brief speech, Albayalde denied the allegations made against him.
Año said Albayalde suffered “emotional distress” following the series of Senate hearings into the controversies, making it difficult for him to concentrate on the job.
“What is good for the organization and he wanted to spare the President and the organization from all these controversies, so he opted and as a gentleman to vacate the post,” Año said.
Lt. Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa, the No. 2 man in the PNP hierarchy took over as acting PNP chief until the President appoints a replacement for Albayalde.
READ: 3 cop officers in top-post list
Go said the President and Año talked Saturday about Albayalde’s fate.
Go declined to say if Albayalde’s alleged involvement in the recycling of illegal drugs and switching of arrested drug suspects caused damage to the PNP. “If I say yes, it would mean that I am saying he is guilty,” he said.
Año, who also serves as chief of the National Police Commission, said the developments in the Senate investigation on the ninja cops has “somehow affected” morale in the 190,000-strong police force.
Meanwhile, Dasmariñas City Rep. Elpidio F. Barzaga Jr. said Albayalde is still considered innocent despite the statements of his detractors who have practically convicted him in the court of public opinion.
“It is easy to cast aspersions on people, especially those in public service and the higher their positions are the more satisfying it is to destroy them. “But is this fair?” Barzaga said, saying there should be a constitutional presumption of innocense.
Muntinlupa Rep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon said he believes Albayalde did the right thing for the PNP by resigning to insulate the organization from the controversy.
But party-list Rep. France Castro of the left-leaning ACT Teachers said the simple resignation of Albayalde is not enough and that he should still be held liable for his actions and involvement in the ninja cops case.
Castro added that Albayalde’s resignation will not absolve him from the possible accountability in the light of the ninja cops case.
READ: Senate to unmask ‘ninja’ copsREAD: Narco-cops worse than felons—DuterteREAD: Narco-cops in two groups bared: ‘ninja liit, volt in’
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.