Gordon recommends graft, drug charges vs. Albayalde, 'ninja cops'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 18) — Resigned top cop PGen Oscar Albayalde should be slapped with graft and drug charges over irregularities in the controversial Pampanga drug raid, according to a draft joint Senate commmittee report.

Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Richard Gordon, who led the Senate panels' investigation on the "ninja" or drug-linked cops, said Albayalde should be held accountable for violating the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act. This is for his and his men’s failure to account for 160 kilos of shabu seized from the drug sting in Mexico, Pampanga in November 2013.

During that time, Albayalde was provincial police director, but he has repeatedly said he did not get himself involved in the operation, thinking it would be a “simple” one. Gordon is not convinced, noting that Albayalde has the duty to supervise his men as their commanding officer.

Thirteen of Alabaylde’s subordinate policemen, now called “ninja cops,” supposedly got almost ₱1 billion from the irregular drug raid, including ₱50 million they extorted in exchange for the freedom of alleged drug trafficker Johnson Lee. They allegedly replaced Lee with another man named Ding Wenkun, whose case was later dismissed.

While Gordon admits it is hard to prove that Albayalde indeed profited from the raid, he said Albayalde could face life imprisonment for the misappropriation of drugs and dereliction of duty. Violation of Article 208 of the Revised Penal Code is also among the charges Gordon recommends against Albayalde for not punishing his erring cops or “tolerating” them.

Gordon said Albayalde is also liable for graft for “persuading” two Central Luzon police chiefs not to implement the dismissal order against his subordinate cops. This is punishable by up to six years imprisonment under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

"The government is injured, the reputation of the government is injured, the drug war is injured," Gordon said, calling Albayalde the "biggest fish" ever caught in the government's anti-drug campaign.

Retired Central Luzon regional police chief PCSupt. Rudy Lacadin earlier testified that Albayalde called him to ask about what was then an ongoing investigation on the Pampanga cops. Albayalde supposedly said he only got "a little" from the raid. While Lacadin admitted that the remark may have been made in jest, senators said it was "damaging" to Albayalde's credibility. Lacadin's successor and now Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Aaron Aquino said Albayalde asked him not to dismiss the Pampanga cops over the flawed drug raid, saying they were his men.

READ: PDEA chief admits he cowered as family received threats after 'ninja cops' testimony

Albayalde could get away

While these form a "very, very strong" case, Gordon believes there’s chance Albayalde could go scot-free, if he has a good lawyer.

“May tsansang makalusot ‘yan. Hindi naman cut and dried itong kasong ito,” Gordon said.

[Translation: He has a chance to get away. This case is not cut and dried.]

He explained that Albayalde could argue why it took the government six years to punish him. Gordon has questioned why Albayalde was not investigated along with his men right after the raid. He was just placed on floating status for eight months, and was allowed to return to duty after and even promoted to a two-star general.

“Personally he’s a likable fellow. I hope he can extricate himself by making sure that he produces evidence,” Gordon said. He has publicly disclosed that Albayalde is his friend. In discussing the possible cases against Albayalde during the media briefing, Gordon even said, “I'm sorry and I'm really sad for him, because there was a time I respected him…. But all of us, all Filipinos must draw the line.”

Albayalde earlier sought legal assistance from veteran lawyer and former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza as he plans to file cases against his accusers.

What's next for Albayalde?

Gordon now leaves it up to the Department of Justice and Office of the Ombudsman to file the appropriate cases against Albayalde and his men. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra in a statement said the report "will surely be useful" in the agency's reinvestigation on the ninja cops' case.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said he would wait for the Senate to wrap up its investigation before taking action on Albayalde and the rest of the ninja cops. Senator Bong Go told Gordon he will now give the President a copy of the report.

READ: Duterte still trusts 'innocent' Albayalde despite stepping down amid controversy – Panelo

The report has yet to be signed by the other senators, but Gordon is confident his colleagues would support him. He got Senate President Tito Sotto’s green light before making the results of the investigation public.

Albayalde, who was supposed to retire on November 8, relinquished his post this week “to spare the President and the organization from the controversy.”

READ: Duterte still trusts 'innocent' Albayalde despite stepping down amid controversy – Panelo

Alabaylde has denied the allegations hurled against him, decrying a supposed conspiracy to discredit his leadership.

Gordon, however, said he “never defended himself adequately,” citing his failure to present any evidence.

CNN Philippines' Gerg Cahiles contributed to this report.