Dela Rosa: Azurin 'not yet off the hook' in ₱6.7-B drug haul probe

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 25) — Former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. is not yet cleared of involvement in the alleged cover-up of the multibillion-peso shabu haul in October 2022, Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa said.

"He is not yet off the hook," Dela Rosa, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs and a former PNP chief, told reporters on Wednesday.

"Unless talaga kung next hearing, magsabi si (Police Brig. Gen. Narciso) Domingo na may instruction talaga o clearance si General Azurin na itago si (Police Master Sgt. Rodolfo) Mayo, wag kasuhan," he added.

[Translation: Unless if in the next hearing, Domingo will say that General Azurin gave instruction or clearance to hide Mayo or not to file charges against him, he will not face complaints.]

Azurin, who retired in April, has denied ordering his subordinates not to arrest and charge dismissed Police Master Sergeant Rodolfo Mayo, who was found with nearly a ton of shabu worth ₱6.7 billion in October last year.

Authorities seized 990 kilos of shabu from the WPD Lending Office in Tondo, Manila, an establishment allegedly owned by Mayo, an intelligence officer of the PNP Drug Enforcement Group (PDEG).

Domingo, then PDEG chief, had been relieved after he was linked to the alleged cover-up, which he denied.

"Attempted (cover-up) siguro kung sabihin ni Domingo, pero 'yung previous hearings natin, klinaro naman natin 'yan kung ano instruction talaga ni General Azurin," Dela Rosa said. "At kinonfirm din ni Azurin na ang kanyang clearance na binigay, kung sinabi ni Mayo na alam na ito ni chief PNP, noong pag-conduct ng follow-up operation. ‘Yan ang may clearance kay chief PNP, hindi ‘yung pagtago kay Mayo."

[Translation: It could be an attempted cover-up if Domingo will say it, but in our previous hearings, they already clarified what General Azurin's instruction was. And Azurin confirmed that he gave clearance — which Mayo said the chief PNP knew — to the conduct of the follow-up operation. The "clearance" Azurin gave was for a follow-up operation -– not to absolve Mayo].

Still, Dela Rosa said the testimonies are subject to change, as he believes many of the police officers are lying to protect higher ranking officials.

"Nag-testify na siya (Domingo), oo. Pero baka mamaya sabihin niya, ‘Sa totoo lang, sir eh, talagang cleared kay chief PNP na itago namin si Mayo,’" Dela Rosa said.

"Hindi nga natin alam dahil nga pati si Domingo mayroong ding tinatago pa," he added.

[Translation: Domingo testified, yes, but he might say, ‘To be honest, Sir, the chief PNP really cleared to hide Mayo.’ We don’t know as it looks like Domingo is also hiding something.]

CNN Philippines has reached out to Azurin for comment.

Senators found it difficult to get answers from the police officers linked to the drug haul as they invoke their right to remain silent in most of the queries.

The Senate has cited for contempt nine police officers for obstructing its legislative inquiry by supposedly lying and evading questions.

These include Mayo, who is now detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology facility in Taguig.

But Dela Rosa said the contempt citation is to detain Mayo in the Senate if he ever walks free from jail due to "technical lapses" in the case.

WATCH: Senate cites in contempt ex-cop Mayo, six others over P6.7B drug haul

CNN Philippines correspondent Eimor Santos contributed to this report.