'Ninja cops' freed Chinese drug lord for ₱50 million

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 1) — Authorities are hunting down a Chinese drug lord who evaded arrest in 2013 after allegedly paying policemen ₱50 million.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Director General Aaron Aquino told a Senate hearing on Wednesday that the suspect, which he identified as Johnson Lee, is in the government's drug watch list.

"He’s in the PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) list, which means that it’s validated that he’s a drug lord," Aquino said. The PRRD list reportedly contains the names of thousands of public officials and civilians who are involved in the illegal drug trade.

Philippine National Police Chief General Oscar Albayalde said he will order the police force to look for Lee.

According to the investigation of the PNP's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, under its former head and now Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, Lee was arrested in an anti-drug operation in Mexico town, Pampanga in November 2013, along with cohort Rowel Cabag.

The initial police report, however, said a certain Ding Wenku was nabbed along with Cabag.

"Pinatakas nila si Johnson Lee at kumuha sila ng isa pang Chinese suspect. According to our sources, si Johnson Lee po ay nagbayad ng around 50 million for his freedom," Magalong said.

[Translation: They allowed Johnson Lee to escape and they got another Chinese suspect. According to our sources, Johnson Lee paid around P50 million for his freedom.]

Police Major Rodney Baloyo, who led the operation, stood by their report and denied taking hold of Lee.

Senator Richard Gordon, however, said this was just one of the lies and inconsistent statements from Baloyo, whom he threatened to cite in contempt and detain in the Pasay City Jail.

He accused Baloyo and his cohorts or receiving cars from Lee. He asked the Land Transportation Office to come up with a report on the whereabouts of Lee's cars.

Baloyo and 12 other Pampanga policemen were ordered dismissed a year after the controversial raid. They received the dismissal order almost three years later, and then filed an appeal. Their punishment was then downgraded to a one-rank demotion.

Albayalde on Tuesday denied allegations he blocked the dismissal of his subordinates, who are now on the list of cops linked to the drug trade that has been sent to President Rodrigo Duterte.

CNN Philippines' Gerg Cahiles contributed to this report.