13 ‘drug recycling’ policemen spared from dismissal

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 30) — Thirteen Pampanga policemen found guilty in 2014 of grave misconduct for failure to account all confiscated evidence during a drug sting in Mexico, Pampanga had been sacked — but three years later managed to evade this penalty over a technicality.

Then PNP (Philippine National Police) Central Luzon Chief now Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief Major General Amador Corpus ordered their one-rank demotion on appeal of the original 2014 decision.

Masakit dito, dapat tanggal lahat. Dinemote na lang,” Senate Blue Ribbon committee chair Richard “Dick” Gordon said.

[Translation: What hurts here is that everyone should have been sacked. But they were just demoted.]

The PNP CIDG under its former chief Benjamin Magalong also filed drug charges against the 13 policemen before the Justice department in 2014. Magalong is now Baguio City mayor.

Gordon said the National Prosecution Service has already dismissed the case. CNN Philippines is still trying to get confirmation from the Justice department.

This is among cases that the Senate Justice and Blue Ribbon committees want to tackle on Tuesday during the continuation of its probe on the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) controversy.

READ: In Bilibid, corruption thrives and some inmates live 'like kings'

Senators earlier said the involved policemen allegedly misdeclared the amount of shabu that they confiscated during that controversial operation.

Maliwanag na may maling nangyari roon kasi mayroon talagang itinabi at binenta. At mayroon din doon nahuli na pinatubos at pinalitan ang huli,” Lacson said Thursday.

[Translation: It’s clear that something wrong went here because some drugs were set aside and sold. And there were those who were caught, but they were asked to be bailed out and they were replaced.]

Lacson said this is related to the GCTA mess as police allegedly contacted high-profile drug lords to sell at least two-thirds of the drugs they confiscated.

All of these 13 Pampanga policemen have been invited to the probe:

- P/Supt. Rodney Raymundo Louie Baloyo

- P/SInsp. Joven De Guzman Jr.

- SPO1 Jules Lacap Maniago

- SPO1 Donald Castro Roque

- SPO1 Ronald Bayas Santos

- SPO1 Rommel Munoz Vital

- SPO1 Alcindor Mangiduyos Tinio

- SPO1 Dante Mercado Dizon

- SPO1 Eligio Dayos Valeroso

- PO3 Dindo Singian Dizon

- PO3 Gilbert Angeles de Vera

- PO3 Romeo Encarnacion Guerrero

- PO2 Anthony Loleng Lacsamana

PNP chief General Oscar Albayalde, who was the Pampanga police chief when the incident happened, has also been invited to shed light on the so-called “ninja cop” issue.

The PNP has said that their leader is ready to face the Senate hearing, who will be facing the upper chamber with retired PBGEN. Manuel Gaerlan who will help him explain what really happened in the Pampanga drug operation.

Gordon said Magalong will return to testify together with another senior officer, who is also expected to attend to corroborate the former CIDG chief's statement.

Last week, Gordon forwarded to President Rodrigo Duterte a list of policemen allegedly involved in the illegal drugs trade managed inside the New Bilibid Prison. Duterte is expected to publicize the names of these cops within the week, according to his longtime aide, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go.

The list is based on Magalong's testimony during a closed-door session of the committee, which the Senate allowed to be disclosed.

There is no confirmation if the 13 policemen involved in the Pampanga case are included in the list sent to Duterte. Senators have refused to confirm or deny if Albayalde is among the 15 officers in the "ninja cops" list.

What we know about ‘ninja cops’

At the last Senate hearing on the GCTA mess — which has now expanded to cover other corruption allegations involving the country’s prison system — Magalong revealed how some active high-ranking cops peddled illegal drugs and extorted from Chinese drug syndicates.

He said the cops would bring their drug haul to their "safe houses." Once they managed to do so, they would either report that the operation was botched, or declare a smaller amount of seized drugs so they can keep the bigger chunk for themselves to distribute and sell.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Aaron Aquino had also said that the recycling of drugs is still rampant in the police force — an accusation that has been denied by the PNP.

Albayalde has also told Duterte that ninja cops are a thing of the past, instead what the country now has are police scalawags, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.

Among the first mentions of the existence of “ninja cops” was from Duterte himself, back in August 2016, when he offered a ₱2-million reward for their capture. He described these policemen as those who re-sell illegal drugs seized in police operations and protect drugs syndicates while still active in service.

He has increased the bounty on ninja cops’ heads to ₱3 million and then to ₱5 million. However, he only offered ₱10,000 to anyone who can capture ninja cops alive.

The President had also offered millions of pesos and a trip to Hong Kong for policemen kill their superiors for being involved in drugs.

CNN Philippines’ Eimor Santos and Xave Gregorio contributed to this report.