Albayalde resigns as PNP Chief amid 'ninja cops' controversy

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 14) — Embattled Philippine National Police Chief Police General Oscar Albayalde relinquished his post on Monday, admitting his resignation was linked to his alleged involvement in an irregular drug raid in Pampanga in 2013.

He will be on "non-duty status" — equivalent to terminal leave — until his compulsory retirement on November 8.

"After careful thought and deliberation, I have come to the decision to relinquish my post as Chief PNP effective today and go on a non-duty status," he said during the PNP flag-raising ceremony.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said Albayalde consulted him on October 9 after the Senate's hearing into the "ninja" or drug-linked cops controversy. Three days later, Albayalde formalized his decision.

"It was an act of a statesman, a gentleman to spare the President and the organization from the controversy," he told CNN Philippines.

The Cabinet official said President Rodrigo Duterte has accepted the decision of Albayalde, which means the 23rd PNP Chief can be named anytime soon. He said PNP's second in command, PLt. Gen. Archie Gamboa, will be the officer-in-charge until Duterte picks his next police chief.

Albayalde's one and a half year stint as PNP Chief was cut shorter than expected; he said he was stepping down on October 29 — 10 days before his retirement day.

Senator Bong Go, a former aide of President Duterte, said the President only wanted Albayalde to take a terminal leave, as agreed upon by him and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año in a meeting last Friday.

But when Año met with Albayalde on Saturday, the top cop already expressed his intent to resign, Go said.

"Talagang nahirapan na rin po siguro si General Albayalde na pamunuan ang PNP while ongoing ang investigation at bigyan ang Pangulo ng sapat na panahon na pumili ng kanyang magiging bagong chief PNP," Go said.

[Translation: Maybe General Albayalde really had a hard time to lead the PNP while the investigation was ongoing and that he wanted to give the President enough time to pick his replacement.]

Go said Duterte feels bad about the controversy surrounding the PNP and Albayalde.

The senator had said that there are three contenders to become the next PNP Chief:

-PLTGEN. Archie Gamboa, Deputy Chief for Administration, and member of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1986;

-PLTGEN. Camilo Cascolan, Deputy Chief for Operations, also a mistah of Albayalde from PMA Class of 1986; and

-PMGEN. Guillermo Eleazar, the newly named chief of the Directorial Staff

'Ninja cops' controversy

Albayalde was implicated in the so-called "ninja cops" controversy during the Senate's investigation into the alleged involvement of active policemen in the illegal drugs trade at the state penitentiary New Bilibid Prison. He was accused of blocking the dismissal of 13 policemen over an irregular drug raid in Pampanga that happened under his watch as provincial police chief in 2013.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Chief Aaron Aquino has testified that Albayalde in 2016 asked him not to implement the dismissal of 13 Pampanga policemen over the flawed drug sting, where they allegedly got millions of pesos from recycling the seized shabu and extorting from the drug trafficker. Albayalde was then acting regional police director of Metro Manila, a post he received after being placed under floating status for eight months because of the raid.

Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, former chief of the PNP's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, has accused Albayalde of blocking the dismissal of 13 Pampanga policemen who supposedly kept and peddled 160 kilos of shabu seized from the November 2013 drug sting in Mexico, Pampanga. The cops also allegedly got P50 million and new cars when they freed drug trafficker Johnson Lee.

Meanwhile, Aquino's successor, Rudy Lacadin, said Albayalde called him to ask an ongoing investigation on the Pampanga cops. Albayalde supposedly said he only got "a little" from the raid.

Albayalde has denied any involvement in the controversial raid, saying he let his subordinates do the job since he thought it was a "simple" anti-drug operation. Albayalde also belied claims he tried to intervene in the case. He said these were all part of a conspiracy to discredit him weeks before his retirement from the police service.

The National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM), the body tasked to administer and control the 190,000-strong police force, is now conducting a case review of the questionable raid, including Albayalde's possible liabilities.