Gordon: Cops ‘mishandled’ 2013 Pampanga drug raid

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Senators on Tuesday grilled policemen for lapses in following procedure during a 2013 drug buy-bust operation in Mexico, Pampanga that led to the demotion of 13 officers. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 1) — Senators on Tuesday grilled policemen for lapses in following procedure during a 2013 drug buy-bust operation in Mexico, Pampanga that led to the demotion of 13 officers.

Senator Richard Gordon pointed out apparent inconsistencies in the testimonies of the accused officers with the evidence presented in their case. He added that the officers were negligent in conducting the operation.

Itong mga nag-raid hindi lang sinungaling, incompetent pa… Huling huli na e di pa nagsasabi…Mishandled talaga. They did not follow the rules,” Gordon told reporters after the hearing.

[Translation: These people that conducted the raid, they are not only liars but also incompetent...We already caught them but still they refuse to confess...This was really mishandled. They did not follow the rules.]

Police Major Rodney Baloyo, who led the operation, claimed that they raided the suspect’s house at 4:30 p.m. on November 29, 2013, contrary to records that said it happened in the morning.

Gordon was dubious. He mentioned that the logbook of the subdivision where the operation occurred showed that it was at 10 a.m.. Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson and Gordon then presented four witness accounts supporting this.

Lacson also interrogated Baloyo on why he did not inform police leadership about the raid before he proceeded with it. Baloyo said he planned to report it after the operation, to ensure that it was not a dud.

Gusto ko positive na ‘yung operation para po… Kasi pagka-negative po, baka mapahiya lang po ako. Kaya kapag positive na po, doon ko pa lang ire-report,” Baloyo told the Senate.

[Translation: I wanted to make sure the operation was positive…because if it was negative, I would be humiliated. That’s why if it was positive, then I would report it.]

Baloyo also claimed that the subdivision security guards pointed guns at them, because they suspected they were kidnappers, but Gordon questioned why there was no incident report.

“You are a person in authority, police ka, opisyal ka tinutukan ka, ang pulis 'pag tinutukan ka, babalikan ka niyan…mahina ‘yung tinutuntungan mo, “ Gordon said.

[Translation: You are a person in authority, you are a policeman, an official. They pointed a gun at you. If a policeman was confronted with a gun, he would retaliate…you’re on shoddy ground.]

Sino maniniwala sa kanila ang dami dami nila tapos dalawang security guards umatras sila,” he later added.

[Translation: Who can believe them? There are so many of them and they retreated when they encountered two security guards.]

Baloyo also admitted they did not have the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) with them during the operation, which, Gordon said, violates protocol. The police officer assured they had “coordination” with the agency.

Ang dami mo nang [You have so many] inconsistencies I can cite you in contempt, have you locked up in Pasay City Jail,” Gordon warned.

‘Modified’ penalty

Baloyo was among 12 other officers that conducted the buy-bust operation in the residence of a certain Johnson Lee. These officers were demoted in 2014 due to grave misconduct for failing to present all confiscated evidence from the drug sting. However, it was revealed that the initial order was to dismiss the officers, before the police settled with a one-rank demotion.

Senators questioned the signatory of the order, Major General Amado Corpus, for the downgrade of the punishment.

Corpus said there were “aggravating circumstances” that qualified the dismissal order. For this case, they were “length of service” and “employment of fraudulent means to commit or conceal the offense.” There is also the mitigating circumstance of “awards and commendations,” he added.

However, a court partially granted the police’s motion for reconsideration against the order in 2014. Corpus explained that the aggravating circumstance was “absorbed” into the offense of grave misconduct which downgraded the punishment to demotion, according to the court’s decision.

“They are still guilty of grave misconduct. We just modified the penalty because the fraudulent means employed is already inherent doon sa [in the] grave misconduct,” he said.

Senator Franklin Drilon did not buy his explanation.

“I could not understand how such a simple case of misconduct on a matter which has very serious implications - and yet our investigation officials said there is a mitigating circumstance, and it outweighed two aggravating circumstances,” Drilon said in exasperation.

The Pampanga raid was a case cited as part of an alleged scam within the PNP where so-called “ninja cops” recycle or resell confiscated drugs in buy-bust operations. Police personnel allegedly keep most of the drugs they seize and extort from Chinese drug syndicates.