Duterte to wait for end of Senate probe before acting on Albayalde, ninja cops

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President Rodrigo Duterte says PNP chief Oscar Albayalde’s only link to the ninja cops is his being the former Pampanga police chief. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 1) — President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday evening that he would wait for the Senate to wrap up its probe on the case of the so-called “ninja cops” before taking action on them and on Philippine National Police chief General Oscar Albayalde, who is implicated in the scandal.

“In obedience to the separation of powers and respect for each other’s department, I should allow the Senate to complete its investigation,” Duterte told reporters before leaving for a five-day trip to Russia.

He said he will wait for the Senate to forward to him the results of its probe. He will then send this to Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, who can conduct his own investigation.

Duterte expects Año to come up with a report, from which he will determine if he will “dismiss, discharge, terminate any and all of them.”

The President added that he does not want to preempt the Interior chief’s investigation, but also said that Albayalde’s “only link” to the ninja cops was that he happened to be Pampanga’s provincial director at the time the questionable drug sting happened in November 2013.

Duterte also deferred to Año for any action on the alleged ninja cops — the 13 Pampanga policemen who faced drug charges over the drug raid, where they supposedly kept 160 kilograms of shabu for themselves and got ₱50 million and new SUVs in exchange for the freedom of Chinese drug trafficker Johnson Lee.

Senate Blue Ribbon panel chair Richard “Dick” Gordon said he believes the cops mishandled the operation and that there was a bigger haul, other than the 30 kilos of shabu the cops had declared. Former Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief Benjamin Magalong said the street price of shabu dropped after the raid, which suggested the seized drugs were recycled and peddled.

Gordon and Magalong said Albayalde had command responsibility over the botched operation.

"At the very least, he (Albayalde) was very, very negligent. At the most, he was extremely, not looking at the ball," Gordon said. He stressed that Albayalde is possibly involved in the "coverup."

He added that he hopes Duterte acts on the ninja cops to put an end to them.

The 13 policemen involved in the controversial drug sting were originally sacked, but their penalties were downgraded to a one-rank demotion three years after filing an appeal.

Albayalde admitted during the Senate probe that he called then Central Luzon regional police director Aaron Aquino in 2016 to ask about the status of his subordinates' case.

Aquino, now chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, confirmed the call and said Albayalde asked him to review the cops' pending dismissal.

Speaking to CNN Philippines’ Politics as Usual, Albayalde said he does not regret making the call to Aquino.

“I did not ask for anything. That is just a favor for all the families. Remember … these policemen have families also. Never did I, kahit ngayon, never did I influence anything,” he said.

CNN Philippines’ Eimor Santos and Alyssa Rola contributed to this report.