MANILA - Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde and former PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief Benjamin Magalong on Tuesday traded barbs at a Senate hearing over a case involving rogue cops.
Magalong, now the mayor of Baguio City, accused Albayalde of intervening in the case of his former men at the Pampanga police office who were accused of making off with millions worth of shabu seized during a November 2013 raid in Mexico town.
Albayalde was chief of Pampanga police when a team of police officers led by then Supt. Rodney Baloyo allegedly made off with some 160 kilograms of shabu worth around P648 million at the time following an anti-drug operation on alleged Chinese drug lord Johnson Lee.
Magalong said then PNP chief Alan Purisima tipped him off about the allegedly anomalous anti-narcotics operation after getting word that several officers, including Albayalde himself, started buying new SUVs.
Albayalde denied Magalong’s allegation.
“I really don’t know what personal gripes major Magalong here has on me. What I had in 2013 was a pickup [truck]. I bought that from a neighbor,” Albayalde said.
Albayalde then turned the tables on Magalong, saying the latter did nothing to clean up the PNP of rogue cops when he was CIDG chief and eventually the PNP’s Director for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM).
“How come when he was DIDM he didn’t follow up the cases when he had all the time?” Albayalde said.
“If he has anything against these people it could have been done way back 2014, 2015, not during my time as PNP chief.”
Magalong retorted and said when he got promoted as DIDM director, he was overseeing a large number of cases. He said even then, he still followed up on the cases of the Pampanga cops.
At one point in the hearing, Magalong also quoted Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino, then the Central Luzon police chief, as saying that Albayalde had asked him not to implement a 2014 dismissal order against the Pampanga cops.
The Senate hearing went on, however, without any of the senators asking both Albayalde and Aquino to confirm or deny Magalong's claim.
Albayalde later told reporters he merely asked Aquino about the status of the case of his former men. He, however, did not explicitly deny Magalong’s allegation that he had asked Aquino not to implement the dismissal order, only saying he could not influence an upperclassman such as Aquino.
All three officials are from the Philippine Military Academy: Magalong from class 1982, Aquino class '85, and Albayalde '86.
“Let him (Aquino) talk. I think Gen. Aquino has his own decision and again even if I called him, it was only to inquire about the status of the case. It’s all normal,” he said.
“This probably has something to do with my retirement, seemingly the statements of Gen. Magalong are personal already. The people saw how he acted, even taking words from the mouth of Gen. Aquino,” said Albayalde, who is set to retire on Nov. 8.
Magalong, meanwhile, told reporters he has nothing against Albayalde.
“You should understand that I did not volunteer to appear here. I did not even expect what questions will be asked. I was just answering questions that were thrown at me,” he said.
Magalong had first appeared at the Senate on the investigation into alleged corruption at the Bureau of Corrections. He later bared the alleged involvement of police officers in recycling drugs seized in anti-narcotics operations.
Magalong also took a swipe at Albayalde for supposedly giving unclear answers about his involvement in the case of the Pampanga cops.
“Everytime napag-uusapan natin 'yun, lalayo 'yung sagot eh. Tingnan nyo, ang layo ng sagot. Sagutin niya kung ano talaga ang nangyari diyan,” he said.
(Everytime we talk about it, he would give irrelevant answers. He should say what really happened.)
In November 2014, then Region 3 Police Director Raul Petrasanta ordered the dismissal of Baloyo and his men, but this was not served and implemented immediately. In 2017, under the leadership of Chief Supt. Amador Corpus, the officers were merely demoted.
Senators grilled Aquino on why he did not immediately act on the case of the Pampanga cops. He argued that President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs had just started when he was the head of the Central Luzon police and the case was admittedly put on the back burner.
Up to this day, the Pampanga cops tagged in the incident are still on active duty, and the justice department said it is expediting the review of their criminal cases and should come up with a decision in a month.