MANILA (2nd UPDATE) — General Oscar Albayalde stepped down as chief of the Philippine National Police on Monday, earlier than previously announced, as he fought allegations he protected his men accused of selling seized narcotics.
"After careful thought and deliberation, I have come to the decision to relinquish my post as Chief PNP effective today and go on non-duty status," Albayalde said told troops during the weekly flag-raising ceremony in Camp Crame.
"Since I am retiring compulsorily on Nov. 8, 2019, this will pave the way for the appointment of my replacement should the President so desire," he added.
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 said Interior Secretary Eduardo Año "accepted and favorably endorsed to the President" his letter of intent to go on non-duty status.
Malacañang meanwhile denied that it pressured Albayalde to step down, saying the PNP chief's move aims to protect the police force's credibility.
"He (Albayalde) wants to spare the entire organization from whatever speculation, bad or false, about shame in the organization," Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in an ANC interview.
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.
Former police official Benjamin 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."
Albayalde, the second PNP chief under 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."
'PUBLICITY' IN SENATE PROBE
He said the dismissal order against the 13 Pampanga officers was downgraded to demotion after they filed a motion for reconsideration.
"I was not among those charged," he said.
The criminal cases were dismissed in 2017 "for insufficiency of evidence" and "lack of probable cause," said Albayalde.
"No protest was made," he said, when he was appointed as head of the Metro Manila police from 2016 to 2018, when he replaced then retiring PNP chief and now Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa.
"In light of those circumstances, the charges before the Senate and the testimonies given were apparently inspired by the publicity which has accompanied the Senate investigation," he said.
Albayalde said he served the country "well" in his one year and 6 month term as the country's 22nd PNP chief.
"My last command as your Chief PNP is to carry on in the service of our fellow Filipinos so that all of us may live and work in peace. Do not let these challenges demoralize or stray you from your path," he told policemen.
Albayalde is on "terminal leave" until his retirement, said Año, adding that the PNP chief relinquished his post "of his own volition."
"Nahihirapan na rin siya sa kalagayan niya bilang Chief PNP. May mga ganitong allegations at tuloy-tuloy iyong Senate hearing, hindi na rin siya makapag-concentrate sa kaniyang trabaho," he told radio DZMM.
(He was finding his situation as Chief PNP difficult. Due to these allegations and the ongoing Senate hearing, he can no longer concentrate on his work.)
"He wanted to spare the President and the organization from all this controversy... It's a gentleman's act, nag-offer na lang siya iwanan na iyong puwesto niya (he offered to leave his post)," he added.