Albayalde did not resign, PNP says amid rumors

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 10) — The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Thursday denied rumors General Oscar Albayalde has stepped down as its chief.

Albayalde continues to leave his fate to President Rodrigo Duterte, and is "ready to turn-over his post to anyone selected by the President" to lead the 190,000-strong police force, the PNP said in a statement.

The clarification was made as talks that Albayalde has resigned circulated on social media – in the wake of fresh allegations he was involved in the irregular drug sting that happened under his watch as Pampanga provincial police chief.

During a Senate hearing on Wednesday, former Central Luzon police regional director Rudy Lacadin said Albayalde called him to ask about the investigation he was conducting on the Pampanga policemen. Thirteen of Albayalde's men supposedly kept 160 kilograms of shabu for themselves during a drug sting in Mexico, Pampanga in November 2013. They also got ₱50 million and some new cars in exchange for the freedom of drug trafficker Johnson Lee, an investigation showed.

Lacadin remembered calling Albayalde by his nickname "Oca" and assured him that “If you have nothing to hide, wala naman kayong dapat katakutan (you have nothing to fear).”

Lacadin said Albayalde’s answer still puzzles him to this day.

Ang sabi niya is, I don’t know if jokingly, ang sabi niya: ‘Actually Sir kaunti lang naman ang napunta sa akin diyan’,” Lacadin narrated.

[Translation: He said, I don’t know if jokingly, he said: 'Actually I only got a little from that.']

Although Lacadin said Albayalde's remark “was probably done out of jest,” Senators Richard Gordon and Franklin Drilon said the testimony was "damaging" to Albayalde's credibility. It also made Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III think twice if Albayalde deserves to stay as PNP chief.

The PNP on Thursday said Albayalde "vehemently denies" calling Lacadin. It added that Lacadin was never Albayalde's friend, as claimed by the retired police officer, but was just a business partner in 2011.

“Lacadin has a lot of explaining to do and he will have his day in court," Albayalde said, as quoted in the PNP statement.

Albayalde earlier told the Senate hearing that he could not remember if he called Lacadin or not. He stressed he did not get himself involved in the drug sting because it seemed like a "simple operation" then. He added that he was placed only on floating status for eight months but without facing administrative or criminal charges.

Albayalade on Thursday maintained his innocence and decried the supposed conspiracy to discredit him weeks before his retirement.

“All those police officials ganging up on me have ill motives against me and obviously all worked with the previous administration," Albayalde said.

Prior to Lacadin's testimony, his successor as Central Luzon regional police director, Aaron Aquino, told the Senate that Albayalde called him in 2016, asking him not to implement the Pampanga cops’ pending dismissal. Aquino is now Director General of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

Albayalde confirmed calling Aquino but only to ask about the status of his subordinate cops' case so he can report something to their relatives. He denied blocking the dismissal of his men.

These policemen, who are now called "ninja cops," were initially ordered dismissed. Four years after the raid, their punishment was downgraded to a one-rank demotion, something that has been heavily criticized by lawmakers. The case is now being reinvestigated by the Department of Justice.

Duterte earlier said he will wait for the Senate to wrap up its investigation before taking action on Albayalde and the 13 "ninja cops." The President previously said Albayalde’s “only link” to the erring cops was that he happened to be Pampanga’s provincial director when the questionable drug raid happened.