MANILA – Oscar Albayalde had "no choice" but to step down as fellow police officers were already "avoiding" him amid allegations he protected his men accused of seizing illegal narcotics, his accuser said Monday.
Former Philippine National Police – Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and now Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong said Albayalde no longer had the “moral high ground” to lead the 190,000-strong police force since the issue surfaced.
“He has no choice. PNP officers and rank and file inside [Camp] Crame are avoiding and evading him. How can you lead when your subordinates do not trust you? In essence, he lost the moral high ground to lead,” Magalong, who blew the whistle on Albayalde, said in a statement.
Albayalde said he was going on non-duty status starting Monday. He said last week that he was leaving the PNP top post on Oct. 29. He will retire on Nov. 8, when he turns 56.
Albayalde was head of the Pampanga police when 13 of its officers were accused of pilfering some 160 kilos of shabu from a 2013 operation against a suspected Chinese drug lord.
Magalong, in a recent Senate hearing, claimed Albayalde sought to defer the dismissal order against his former subordinates.
Another retired police official, Rudy Lacadin, later claimed that Albayalde called 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."
'NOT YET OFF THE HOOK'
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Albayalde is not yet off the hook despite his decision to relinquish his post ahead of his mandatory retirement next month.
"His continued stay as PNP chief has become untenable. His resignation ahead of his mandatory retirement, however, will not in any way clear him from his liability, both administratively or criminally, in connection with the Pampanga ninja cops issue," Drilon said in a statement.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former police chief and one of the senators actively participating in the legislative probe on the alleged anomalies at the police force, said he has “mixed feelings” about Albayalde’s abrupt retirement.
“Being a PMA graduate myself, I feel sad whenever fellow PMAers slug it out publicly over issues that hit the very core of the unique and exclusive cadet honor system which has nurtured us for four arduous years to prepare ourselves to resist the moral challenges and temptations once we step out of the Academy,” Lacson said in a statement.
Minority Sen. Francis Pangilinan, president of the opposition Liberal Party, said Albayalde and other officials under the Duterte administration linked to illegal drugs should be charged.
“[For] a government that claims to be against illegal drugs and corruption, it has acted in the opposite direction and has in fact coddled the corrupt and those linked to illegal drugs,” Pangilinan said in a statement.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, another minority lawmaker, said Albayalde’s resignation does not mean closure on the issue involving the so-called “ninja cops.”
“Given the gravity of accusations, which have further demoralized an already misdirected police force, his decision to step down was appropriate,” Hontiveros said in a statement.
“[This] is an important development in the people's quest for truth, justice and accountability. May this aid us all in our collective effort to continue to ferret out the truth, hold all responsible accountable and redeem the tarnished image and reputation of our police force.”