Panelo sees weak evidence vs Albayalde in Senate hearings

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo can't say for certain if President Rodrigo Duterte had a hand in Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Oscar Albayalde's resignation.

But in a press conference following Albayalde's announcement, he said he found the evidence against the ex-top cop weak.

Panelo, who is also chief presidential legal counsel, said on Monday, October 14, that some statements by retired generals Rudy Lacadin and Benjamin Magalong against Albayalde sounded like hearsay which would have been dismissed by any court.

"Ang problema sa statement ni General [Lacadin], mayroon siyang sinabing, 'Hindi ko ho alam kung nagbibiro o hindi.' Sa hukuman, hindi pwede 'yun. 'Pag ganyan ang salita mo, wala na, dismissed ang kaso mo," said Panelo.

(The problem with General Lacadin's statement is when he said, "I don't know if Albayalde was kidding or not." In the eyes of a court, that won't fly. When you say it that way, your case will be dismissed.)

The spokesman also did not think much of parts of the testimony of Magalong, who is now Baguio City mayor.

"As for Mayor Magalong, with due respect to you, what I heard also sounded like hearsay, like it wasn't personal knowledge. That also won't pass in court," said Panelo.

The spokesman and lawyer also hit some senators for supposedly prematurely handing down a guilty verdict against Albayalde. He did not name the senators but said one of them was his good friend.

"When you investigate, don't say whether someone is guilty or not. Finish the probe and then make a recommendation, otherwise you'll really have a problem," said Panelo in Filipino.

What did Lacadin and Magalong say? In a Senate hearing, Lacadin had accused Albayalde of saying in a phone call that he "only got a little" from a 2013 Pampanga drug operation allegedly involving "ninja cops" under Albayalde's supervision.

But Lacadin had said Albayalde could have made the remark "jokingly."

Albayalde has threatened to sue Lacadin for his claim.

Meanwhile, Magalong had accused Albayalde of stopping a dismissal order against the 13 cops in the same 2013 drug operation.

The claim, also made in a Senate hearing, made it appear like Albayalde was protecting abusive cops. Magalong based his accusation on what he said Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Aaron Aquino told him, because it was Aquino who got the call from Albayalde about the dismissal order.

Aquino was then Central Luzon police chief, while Albayalde was Metro Manila police chief.

Albayalde has admitted calling Aquino about the matter, but only to inquire about the status of the 13 cops' cases. It was natural for him to make such a query, he said, because families of the cops had been asking him for updates since he was their former superior.

Is that the only evidence vs Albayalde? Aside from the Senate hearing testimonies, there was a PNP investigation that found that the 13 Pampanga cops under Albayalde's leadership as Pampanga police chief kept over a hundred kilograms of shabu (methamphetamine) during a November 2013 operation.

Albayalde was put on floating status as the commanding officer and he is named as a respondent in a criminal complaint now with the Department of Justice.

Why does this matter? Albayalde resigned amid the accusations being lobbed against him by former police generals. 

What's not clear is if Duterte asked him to resign or if he did it voluntarily. Panelo could not clarify the President's role, but said he personally thinks Albayalde stepped down of his own free will.

Duterte has yet to speak publicly about the matter, but in past press conferences, he has implied he found the evidence against Albayalde weak.

The Commander in Chief had said he would wait for Interior Secretary Eduardo Año's recommendation before deciding on Albayalde's fate. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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