Ninja cops' days are numbered, senators say as Albayalde's court trial looms

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 17) — The impending charges against former Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde and his co-accused "ninja cops" should send shivers up the spines of all policemen involved in illegal drugs activities, senators said Friday.

Senator Franklin Drilon in a statement said state prosecutors' decision finding probable cause to charge Albayalde for graft sends a clear message to unscrupulous members of the police force: "Your days are numbered."

“You may not be caught today or tomorrow but, certainly, the law will catch up with you and send you behind bars,” he added.

Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, himself a former top cop, likewise said there's no way cops like PMaj Rodney Baloyo could "avoid past misdeeds from catching up with them."

"The lesson learned here is that the law does not only have a long arm. It also has a very long memory," Lacson said.

Baloyo led the irregular Pampanga raid in November 2013 where he and a dozen other cops supposedly kept and recycled 160 kilograms of shabu and got ₱50 million in exchange for the freedom of a drug lord. All these happened under Albayalde's watch as provincial police director.

The incident was made public last year after Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, the former chief of the PNP's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, testified about it in the Senate. Albayalde has maintained his innocence but resigned from his post in October 2019 "to spare the President and the organization from the controversy."

READ: Albayalde accused of blocking dismissal of subordinate 'ninja cops'

Drilon and Lacson both took part in the lesgislative inquiry into the allegations against Albayalde and his former subordinates. The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, chaired by Senator Richard Gordon, recommended graft and drug charges against the disgraced policemen.

Looming charges

On Thursday, the Department of Justice announced that its prosecutors ruled that Albayalde violated the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. They said he failed to implement an order to penalize his men over the anomalous drug sting. Drug charges were not recommended for Albayalde as prosecutors noted his criminal liability was due to command responsibility.

The panel of prosecutors also found probable cause to charge 12 of the 13 policemen involved in the raid for misappropriating, misapplying or failing to account for confiscated drugs; planting evidence; delaying and bungling the prosecution of drugs cases; and qualified bribery. They allegedly declared only 36.6 kilograms of shabu when they actually seized 200 kilograms, and claimed they recovered only ₱300,000 in cash, when there's evidence it was as high as ₱10 million. The prosecutors said they arrested a certain Ding Wenkun to be able to free the real suspect, alleged Chinese drug trafficker Johnson Lee.

The complaints against one of the accused, PSSg Anthony Loleng Lacsamana, were dismissed due to insufficient evidence.

Innocent until proven guilty

The PNP said it respects the findings of the Justice Department which gave Albayalde "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," the PNP said in a statement.

Albayalde earlier asked the Justice Department to junk the criminal complaint filed against him by the PNP-CIDG. In response to the prosecutors' latest decision, reports quoted Albayalde as saying he sees it as a chance to finally clear his name in court.

READ: Albayalde seeks ex-SolGen's help in filing case vs. accusers