MANILA, Philippines: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said on numerous occasions that no illegal drugs trade will prosper without connivance by the police or the military.
During this presidential campaign, he promised to solve illegal drugs in “three to six months”. After he won by a landslide in 2016, he further raised the rhetoric, saying he would be “happy to slaighter” drug suspects.
Nearly four years into Duterte’s watch, the Philippines remains a hotbed for the trade and use of “shabu” (meth, also known as “poor-man’s cocaine, and a brain-wasting synthetic drug).
On Monday, the Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde stepped down from his post, as the investigation on alleged “recycling” of shabu by some police officers took the centrestage in a Senate probe.
One case involving “ninja” cops goes way back to 2013 in Pampanga province.
“Ninja cops” is the Philippine media term for police officers involved in the drug trade — by under-reporting the drugs they seize, then selling the rest for personal gain.
“READ MORE: Ninja cops unmasked”
‘Continue serving the people’
“After careful thought and deliberation, I have come to the decision to relinquish my post as Chief [of the] PNP effective today and go on non-duty status. I have submitted my letter of intent to [Interior] Secretary [Eduardo] Año which he accepted and favorably endorsed to the President,” he said in a speech before PNP personnel during his last flag-raising ceremony at Camp Crame in Quezon City, as reported by the Inquirer.
Addressing the 190,000-strong police force, Albayalde ordered the policemen to continue serving the Filipino people well.
7 million drug users
In the Philippines, an estimated four to seven million of its 104 million population are said to be using prohibited drugs.
Source: Philippines News Agency, December 1, 2017
“Do not let these challenges demoralize or stray you from your path,” he said. Albayalde is facing compulsory retirement on November 8, 2019.
“This will pave the way for the appointment of my replacement should the President so desires,” said Albayalde.
On Monday, following the PNP chief’s resignation, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go revealed that President Duterte had wanted resigned Albayalde to take a “terminal leave” until his scheduled retirement next month.
Senator Go, a close ally of Duterte, said that after the Cabinet meeting on Friday (October 11), Duterte suggested to Interior Secretary Eduardo Año that Albayalde should take his terminal leave.
A Senate investigation hearing on the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law controversy has segued into Albayalde’s alleged involvement in the suspected drug recycling in a buy-bust operation in Pampanga in 2013.
Duterte has won a landslide vote in 2016 on the two themes of his presidential campaign: Curbing crime and illegal drugs.
During that probe, former police officer, Gen. Benjamin Magalong, told the Senate hearing that Albayalde sought to defer the dismissal order against his former subordinates.
In 2013, Albayalde was head of the Pampanga police when 13 of its officers were accused of pilfering some 160 kilos of “shabu” (meth) from a 2013 operation against a suspected Chinese drug lord.
Police officers testify
On October 1, a senior police officer, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Director General Aaron Aquino, told the Senate that back in 2016, when they were regional directors (Aquino for Central Luzon and Albayalde for Metro Manila), Albayalde made a phone call to Aquino about the case of alleged “ninja cops” set to be dismissed over a questionable 2013 anti-drug operation.
Aquino said he asked why Albayalde, a former Pampanga provincial chief, was doing this. “Kasi, Sir, mga tao ko ‘yan (Because, Sir, those are my people),” Aquino recalled Albayalde as telling him.
On October 9, another retired police official, Gen. Rudy Lacadin, made a claim that also implicated Albayalde.
Lacadin, told the Senate commitee hearing that when he (Lacadin) was tasked to investigate the 2013 drug operation in Mexico, Pampanga, Albayalde had him up to inquire about the case of the so-called “ninja cops” and allegedly admitted that some of the drug loot went to him but “only a little,” according to an ABS-CBN report.
Lacadin said he was PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) deputy chief then and Albayalde was Pampanga police chief.
On Monday, October 14, Senator Go revealed that it was Albayalde’s intention to resign even before Interior Secretary Año met Duterte.
Albayalde, the second PNP chief under President Duterte, earlier denied the accusations against him, saying “it seems that everybody is ganging up on me” and that “it’s as if I’m being crucified already.”