PDEA chief gets death threats after tagging Albayalde in 'ninja cops' issue

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino has been receiving death threats after he accused Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Oscar Albayalde of intervening in the dismissal of Pampanga "ninja cops."

An emotional Aquino bared this in a prepared statement he read before a Senate joint panel hearing on Thursday, October 3. Aquino said he received a worrying call from a friend in the security community.

"I am indeed feeling pressure and in a quandary since the last hearing.  I was thinking of my family who are now put in much deeper danger. A few day ago, I received a call from a friend who confirmed that some personalities are plotting against my family," Aquino said.

"His exact words were, 'Sir, pinaghahandaan nila ang pamilya mo (Sir, they are planning to do something against your family),'" the PDEA chief added.

Aquino said this made him break down as he worried about his wife and children.

"I know the pressure and challenges of the position as the main anti-drug enforcer in the country. But I literally broke down into small pieces after hearing the information, considering  that my security escorts have also been recalled. I feel so helpless and defeated," he said. (READ: After 'ninja cops' revelation, PNP recalls PDEA chief's escorts)

Aquino added: "I kept asking myself, 'Is this fight worth it? Why will I gamble the safety of my family? I kept thinking about my daughter and my sons, the youngest being 12. Tama ba na isugal ko ito sa laban sa mga kalaban (Is it right t gamble their safety in this fight against the enemy)?"

Cleanse ranks

Aquino stressed that he had never thought about tainting the image of the PNP when he first confirmed the existence of so-called ninja cops. He added that PDEA had its share of bad eggs who were caught involved in drug recycling.

"It was never my intention to malign the Philippine National Police, the same agency which I served and protected for the past 36 years of my professional life. PNP made me who I am today. Knowing the sad reality of recycling of illegal drugs does not make PDEA or the PNP bad or worse. It means we have to exert all means to cleanse our ranks and put a stop to the cycle," he said.

Aquino said that while law enforcers fight illegal drug syndicates, they also have to "launch our own battle against the demon inside our own backyards."

Complete narration

The PDEA chief also completed the narration of his conversation with Albayalde, when the latter called him up in 2016 in relation to the 13 Pampanga cops involved in the irregular 2013 buybust in Mexico, Pampanga.

During the Senate hearing on Tuesday, October 1, Aquino told the Senate panel that Albayalde asked about the status of the case of 13 Pampanga cops who had been ordered dismissed from the service. 

On Thursday, Aquino added more information: that Albayalde had also asked him "not to implement" the order. In response, he said he told Albayalde that he would have the case reviewed by his legal officer, and that in the meantime, he would move the erring cops to Mindanao.

Aquino said this was what he had relayed to President Rodrigo Duterte in a meeting also attended by Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, a former head of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), and Senator Bong Go.

Asked by senators why he did not act on the dismissal order against the 13 cops, Aquino said he did not really know much about the 3-year-old case at the time he assumed as Central Luzon police chief in 2016, and that he was focused on Duterte's war on drugs.

He said what he did was to refer the case to his legal officer for review, but the latter was relieved without giving any feedback, so this was assigned to the new legal officer who did not submit a report to him until his retirement. 

Albayalde, who was also at the hearing, maintained that he did not try to exert any influence on the case, even after he made the call to Aquino. (READ: Spectacle of a grand cover-up': Senate hearing bares how 'ninja cops' remain in service)

"Whether I called or not, walang nagbago sa decision niya (his decision did not change).... Even during the time, the motion for reconsideration from dismissal to demotion has been partially granted. Maliwanag po dito na hindi naimpluwensyahan si General Aquino (It's clear here that General Aquino was not influenced)," he said. – Rappler.com

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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