MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A visibly angry Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Oscar Albayalde fired back at Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong after the retired cop accused him of intervening in the dismissal of 13 "ninja cops" in Pampanga 6 years ago.
During a joint Senate committee investigation on Tuesday, October 1, Albayalde tried to turn the tables on Magalong and asked why he did not exhaust all means to dismiss the Pampanga cops when he was still in the PNP.
When the controversial "buybust" happened in Mexico, Pampanga, in November 2013, Magalong was PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief and Director for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM) – powerful positions that handle criminal probes.
"Then-CIDG director Magalong could have done everything in all his power. He could have followed up. After 6 years this is an issue again. Hindi ko alam kung anong gustong ipalabas ni General Magalong (I really do not know what General Magalong wants to show here)," Albayalde said before the Senate.
"We have papers here that should show that we’re dead serious in the campaign against illegal drugs and scawalags in uniform.... Why are we being blamed now?" he added.
Why is Albayalde pressed? Earlier in the hearing, Magalong said he had learned from Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Director General Aaron Aquino that Albayalde had asked Aquino, who was Central Luzon police chief at the time, not to implement the dismissal order for the Pampanga cops because "they are his people."
Albayalde denied influencing the case, saying it was only natural for him to ask about the status of the case because he knew the family of the cops, and he was concerned for them.
Albayalde knew the cops because he was the Pampanga police chief when the operation took place. Magalong said before the Senate that it would be impossible for Albayalde not to know all the details of the operation marked by irregularities.
"If there is a high-profile operation, you are focused there, blow-by-blow account – you are monitoring it," Magalong said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Magalong responds: According to Magalong, he could not have pressed for the dismissal of the cops, because he was busy minding thousands of other cases.
"We were looking at all investigation and detection of all units of the Philippine National Police. I cannot be specific in one specific thing," said Magalong, who retired from the PNP in December 2016.
Gordon then remarked that the same could be said of Albayalde as a former Pampanga police chief and now the police chief. (READ: Albayalde: ‘Drug queen’ issue shouldn’t have been publicized)
Albayalde responded by stressing internal cleansing under his term, and then reiteraterated that Magalong had "all the time" to follow up on the case.
In an ambush interview after the hearing, Magalong stressed the importance of remaining focused on the issue – the irregular drug operation.
"This is not a clash of classes, this is not a clash of generals. I have nothing against him.... Let’s concentrate on this particular issue: What really happened there? That's not being answered.... See, the answer is way off. He should address what really happened there," he said in a mix of Filipino and English.
Magalong is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1982, while Albayalde is a member of PMA Class 1986.
Magalong maintained that what he said at the hearing was not scripted and that he had bared what he knew in response to senators' questioned in a hearing on September 19. This revelation had prompted senators to call for an executive session where Magalong gave them the names of "ninja cops" in active service.
Senator Bong Go said during the hearing that President Rodrigo Duterte may ask the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to investigate the case. – With a report from Aika Rey/Rappler.com
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