Police body hurries probe as Albayalde retirement nears

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 01 2019 03:29 PM | Updated as of Nov 01 2019 04:19 PM

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief general Oscar Albayalde attends a Senate hearing on Oct. 1, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- The resigned Philippine National Police chief, General Oscar Albayalde, appeared before a panel of investigators more than a week ago as the National Police Commission (Napolcom) wraps up its inquiry ahead of his retirement on Nov. 8.

Albayalde is accused of covering up for his former men, who allegedly made millions by reselling confiscated meth in a 2013 raid in Pampanga province.

The scandal forced his resignation 3 weeks early, and cast doubt on the credibility of the government’s drug war, which has killed more than 6,600 people in police operations.

“Napolcom really has to reckon with his retirement,” said Rogelio Casurao, the commission’s vice chairman and executive officer.

“Dapat magkumahog kami para we don’t just lose jurisdiction over him. But if we find that he’s clean, wala ka nang hahanapin na deadline.”

(We have to hurry so we don't lose jurisdiction over him. But if we find that he’s clean, we don't need to worry about a deadline.)

An adverse finding can jeopardize Albayalde’s monthly pension of around P200,000, Casurao told ABS-CBN News.

“Baka di nya matanggap na yun (He might not get it),” he said.

ABSURD

The investigation has put members of the Napolcom in a rather awkward situation of passing judgment on someone who used to be one of their own, Casurao said.

As PNP chief, Albayalde sat in the commission that supervises the police force, along with its 4 commissioners and interior secretary, who serves as ex-officio chairman.

A PNP chief can be removed from the Napolcom since he has so much responsibilities over the police force and could hardly attend en banc sessions, Casurao said.

Casurao also cited possible conflicts of interest that could arise if a sitting PNP chief was under investigation by the Napolcom.

“An absurd situation has happened already—the subject of the inquiry is the chief PNP, like the present case of General Albayalde,” he said.

“Imagine he (was) a member of the Napolcom. He was the object of the inquiry.”

A 7-man panel questioned Albayalde for about 2 hours and the Napolcom was able to “ferret out some information” that he was not able to discuss before a Senate committee, Casurao said.

But Casurao declined to divulge any details, saying a report would be completed and sent to the president before Albayalde’s compulsory retirement.

DISCIPLINARY BODIES

The PNP chief is one of at least 8 disciplinary bodies tasked to deal with erring policemen.

Depending on the gravity of offense and punishment that can be meted out, complainants can go to chiefs of police, provincial and regional directors, city or town mayors, or the Napolcom.

“The chief PNP is a disciplinary body himself... then disciplinary body pa sya as a member of the commission,” Casurao said, noting such an official also has authority over all policemen.

“So that gives him more power than the (interior) secretary.”

The PNP also has the Internal Affairs Service (IAS), which is mandated to automatically investigate cases where a policeman pulls the trigger or if someone is hurt or killed during an operation.

Human rights violations committed by policemen are also the subject of investigation by the IAS.

The People’s Law Enforcement Board provides another disciplinary mechanism, under the law that created the PNP in 1990.

MISBEHAVIOR

Composed of local elective officials and community representatives “known for their probity and integrity,” the board has the power to sanction erring policemen with demotion or even dismissal.

The Ombudsman can also discipline policemen regardless of rank, but normally gives priority to high-ranking government officials accused of graft and corruption or plunder.

Casurao acknowledged that having several disciplinary bodies was no assurance of police discipline.

“It all boils down to the discipline of the police. Kahit isang disciplinary body lang, kung matitino ang pulis, tamang-tama yan.”

(If policemen are upright, one disciplinary body is enough.)

PNP records showed that 9,172 policemen were punished for various reasons from July 2016 to September this year.

A total of 4,721 of them were suspended while 2,806 were dismissed from service. Another 535 policemen were demoted.

Dismissal of those involved in illegal drugs, whether as users, protectors, or traffickers, involved 454 policemen.