2019: A tough year for the PNP

Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo

THE year 2019 was tough for the Philippine National Police (PNP) as it faced major controversies particularly involving retired general Oscar Albayalde.

Less than two weeks before his mandatory retirement on November 8, 2019, Albayalde stepped down from his post by going on a “non-duty status”, which is granted to retiring officers to give them time to comply with documentary requirements for their retirement.

This came after he was accused of protecting “ninja cops”, or policemen involved in the recycling of illegal drugs seized during anti-illegal drugs operations, and benefiting from the proceeds.

Allegations against Albayalde were aired during a Senate investigation that initially looked into the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) scheme, a system that reduces the sentence of a detainee based on good conduct.

The investigation led to the discovery of several other irregularities inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), including the alleged connivance between convicted drug lords detained in the national penitentiary and their partners such as the so-called ninja cops.

Former police official now Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong exposed the irregularity, citing the results of an investigation he conducted on orders of then PNP chief Alan Purisima on the November 2014 anti-drugs operation conducted by 13 policemen in Woodbridge Subdivision, Lakeshore View in Pampanga.

The raid led to the seizure of 38 kilograms of suspected methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) as reported by the operating cops.

Allegations

Albayalde was the Pampanga police provincial director when the operation was conducted.

Magalong said they found out in the investigation that around 200 kilograms, not 38 kilograms, of shabu were recovered in the operation. They also found out that the policemen presented a suspect other than the person they arrested during the raid.

He said the policemen were paid P50 million by the Korean drug lord who was arrested during the said operation in exchange for his freedom.

Magalong, during the Senate hearing in which Albayalde was also present, said he did not believe that Albayalde had no idea about the illegal activities of his men.

The 13 Pampanga cops were recommended to be dismissed but they were eventually demoted only by one rank.

Albayalde’s involvement was emphasized after two former police generals, now Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino and Police Director Rudy Lacadin, revealed separate conversations that showed Albayalde trying to intervene in the case against the 13 cops.

Aquino recalled that when he, as the chief of the Central Luzon Police Regional Office in 2016, was about to implement the order against the 13 cops, Albayalde called him up asking about the status of the case.

He said Albayalde also tried to stop him from implementing the order saying that “they were my men.”

Lacadin, for his part, said that while he was conducting an investigation on the matter, Albayalde also called him up saying, “Sabi niya, I don’t know if jokingly, but he said, ‘Actually Sir kaunti lang naman ang napunta sa akin diyan’.”

Read: Police official says Albayalde benefited from drug operation

Albayalde has denied all the accusations thrown at him.

Albayalde was known to be a strict police official. He was known for conducting surprise inspection in police stations in the wee hours of the night to ensure that his men were always on alert to respond to any eventualities.

Many police officers were punished because of his strict rules.

There was even an instance that he confronted a policeman whom he found texting while on duty during the conduct of the Asean 2016. He also confronted several policemen for sleeping on the job.

His being tough was one of the reasons why President Rodrigo Duterte appointed him as the chief PNP in April 2018, replacing retired PNP chief now Senator Ronald dela Rosa.

Following his appointment, he ordered policemen who bashed him on social media to report to him and warned them of administrative charges.

He urged them to express their complaints internally, not on social media, so it would reach his office and he could act on these.

Crooks among officers

The controversy involving Albayalde was followed by allegations that 16 cops of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) tried to smuggle contraband into the NBP amid efforts to put a stop to corruption in the facility.

Then newly appointed Bureau of Corrections Director General Gerald Bantag had asked the NCRPO to deploy some policemen inside the NBP because the prison guards were believed to have been compromised.

Some policemen were also accused of extortion. In October, two policemen who allegedly extorted P100 from each bus or van that leaves a terminal in Pasay City were arrested.

PNP spokesperson Brigadier General Bernard Banac admitted that the image of the PNP has been tainted.

He, however, assured that the PNP remains committed to perform its duties and responsibilities to serve and protect.

Albayalde relinquishment of his post led to the appointment of Lieutenant General Archie Gamboa, the second in command, as the officer-in-charge.

Gamboa has implemented a major revamp in the agency, which included reshuffling of 21 police officials holding major units.

Gamboa cited as reasons for the revamp the retirement of some senior police officers and the instruction from President Rodrigo Duterte.

Banac admitted that some of the police officers were disappointed by the reshuffle but noted that it is for the better.

It has been nearly three months since Gamboa took over as OIC, but Duterte has yet to appoint a permanent chief PNP.

He admitted having a hard time in choosing the right leader, especially after the ninja cop controversy.

“It’s kind of a... Hindi naman (Not really) messy but... It’s very hard to, at this time, to choose a candidate na... who would really... the appropriate guy. Mahirap, eh (It’s hard),” he said.

If he fails to appoint one, Duterte said he will take over the PNP leadership and act as the chief PNP.

By January, according to Banac, the PNP shall need a permanent chief PNP to ensure unhampered operations particularly in the procurement of equipment.

“Pagpasok ng bagong taon, para sa pagsimula ng ating procurement, ay kinakailangan na magkaroon na tayo ng bagong Chief PNP. Dahil kung may anumang bagong kontrata na kailangang pirmahan, kailangan isang permanent Chief PNP ang siyang lalagda dito,” Banac said.

“Subalit kung hindi pa gagawin ng pangulo, wala namang magiging problema. Mahaba naman ang taon na pwedeng isagawa ang procurement. Wala tayong nakikita pa na problema,” he added.

The PNP also assured continuous cooperation in the war on drugs despite the situation.

Despite these controversies, the organization has been recognized for the successful conduct of security operations during two major events in 2019, the national elections in May and the conduct of the Southeast Asian Games in November to early December.

Banac said he believes that the challenges that the PNP faced has made them stronger.

“Yes, for 2020, we will build upon our achievements, challenges, and controversies that we faced in 2019. All these made the PNP stronger and more ready to serve and protect the Filipino people,” he said.

“All in all, the PNP has performed excellently in 2019, meeting its targets which include among others, reduction of crime incidents nationwide by more than 10 percent (index Crimes for January to October: 65,945 in 2018 versus 55,492 in 2019) delivering desired result of public satisfaction with 79 percent based on the latest SWS survey despite controversies that beset it towards the end of the year,” he added. (SunStar Philippines)