The Department of the Interior and Local Government on Friday said it will leave to the country’s judicial process the fate of retired Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde who was indicted for graft over the anti-drug raid in Pampanga in November 2013.
“The DILG respects/welcomes [the Department of Justice] finding of probable cause against the former PNP chief particularly on violation of Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act by persuading inducing or influencing a public official to perform an act constituting to violation of rules and regulation,” Interior Secretary Año said.
Año said this is an opportunity for Albayalde to defend himself in a proper forum where he will be accorded due process and his constitutional rights will be observed.
“At the same time, the DOJ finding does not contradict the DILG as probable cause merely engenders a well-founded belief that Albayalde is only probably guilty on the criminal side. Let justice takes its course,” he said.
Meanwhile, the PNP said it respects the Justice department’s decision.
“Former PNP chief [police general] Oscar Albayalde was given a fair chance to explain his side. Still, the DOJ panel found probable cause to indict him for graft. However, he remains innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt,” PNP spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said in a statement.
Albayalde, meanwhile, said his conscience remains clear and he is ready to defend himself in court.
“I welcome this development as the chance to once and for all clear my name in the proper forum. Finally, I will have my day in court. I am confident that the truth will bear me out in the end,” he added.
On Thursday, state prosecutors who reinvestigated the case found probable cause to charge Albayalde with violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The panel anchored its findings on Albayalde’s non-implementation of an order penalizing the police officers involved in the assailed drug operation.
Meanwhile, Supt. Rodney Raymundo Louie Juico Baloyo IV; Insp. Joven Bagnot De Guzman, Jr.; Senior Police Officer 1 Jules Lacap Maniago; SPO1 Donald Castro Roque; SPO1 Ronald Bayas Santos, SPO1 Rommel Muñoz Vital; SPO1 Alcindor Mangiduyos Tinio; PO3 Dindo Singian Dizon; PO3 Gilbert Angeles De Vera; PO3 Romeo Encarnacio Guerrero, Jr.; SPO1 Eligio Dayos Valeroso; and SPO1 Dante Mercado Dizon were indicted for offenses in violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
The panel also recommended the filing of charges against Albayalde and the 12 police officers for qualified bribery under the Revised Penal Code.
In the same resolution, the DOJ said the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group failed to provide enough evidence to show that Albayalde had a hand in the misappropriation of seized drugs in a 2013 raid.
The case involves the alleged cover-up during the November 2013 buy-bust involving Johnson Lee, owner of the house in Woodbridge
Subdivision, Lakeshore View, Pampanga raided by 13 members of the Provincial Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operation Task Force of the Pampanga Provincial Police Office led by Baloyo.
The raid yielded a substantial amount of illegal drugs wherein involved cops allegedly pilfered some 160 kilos of shabu.
Albayalde resigned in October after serving as Philippine police chief for more than a year, having presided over an anti-narcotics crackdown that left thousands of drug suspects dead.
The charge levelled against him carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
The episode that led to his sudden fall from grace cast an unwelcome light on a drug war that is immensely popular with Filipinos, but which has faced international criticism over allegations that police were summarily executing suspects.
Meanwhile, Senate Mainority leader Sen. Franklin Drilon said the indictment of Albayalde and the 12 other police officers over a 2013 anti-drug operation in Mexico, Pampanga is a clear signal that the days are numbered of unscrupulous policemen involved in the recycling of seized illegal drugs.
“You may not be caught today or tomorrow but, certainly, the law will catch up with you and send you behind bars,” Drilon said.
“The justice system may be slow but no one can escape from it,” he added.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the lesson learned here is that the law does not only have a long arm. It also has a very long memory.
“I personally think that it is as far as the evidence against former PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde can go, as shown even during the Senate inquiry,” said Lacson, a former PNP chief.
Drilon issued a stern warning to the so-called ninja cops or members of the police involved in the recycling of seized illegal drugs: the law is catching up with you.
Drilon , who served as justice secretary, also commended the DOJ’s action.
“I commend and fully support the decision of the Department of Justice to indict former Philippine National Police Chief Oscar Albayalde and the 12 ninja cops involved in the recycling of seized illegal drugs in relation to a 2013 anti-drug operation in Mexico, Pampanga.”
“In the face of the evidence against Albayalde and his inability to provide evidence to the contrary, his indictment is the right thing to do. Anything less than that would have been a mockery and a slap in the face of Philippine justice system,” he said.
He added that it is only when government stop the impunity that it can truly end the decades-old problem of recycling of illegal drugs perpetuated by these so-called ninja cops, the very same people in charge of this administration’s bloody anti-illegal drug war that has killed over 5,000 Filipinos.
Lacson noted that the surest way for police officers like Baloyo et. al to avoid past misdeeds from catching up with them is not to commit those misdemeanors in the first place.
While overwhelmingly backed by Filipinos, critics alleged the drug war targets the poor and leaves the rich and powerful untouched, while reinforcing a culture of impunity. With PNA/AFP