By Mario Casayuran
‘’If we get jailed, so be it.’’
Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong issued this statement after beleaguered Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Oscar Albayalde sought the legal advice of former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza on a possible legal action he can take against the former PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief and two other retired PNP generals who pinned him down on the controversial ‘’ninja cops’’ and illegal drugs recycling scandal in Pampanga in 2013.
The alleged owner of a house in a subdivision in Mexico in Pampanga ‘’raided’’ by Albayalde’s men, Johnson Lee, a South Korean, was allegedly freed after paying a P50 million kidnapping ransom; only 32 kilos out of 200 kilos of ‘’shabu’’ seized were declared, and; some of Lee’s vehicles were appropriated by some of the members of the police raiding team.
‘’He is richer. Hypothetically, we could be jailed. So be it. It is a fight between right and wrong. But the Senate and the public could determine who is lying,’’ Magalong said in a DWIZ radio interview yesterday.
In a related development, Magalong said the announced early retirement of Albayalde as PNP chief 10 days before the schedule on November 8 would be good for the image of the PNP.
Albayalde would be 56 years old, the mandatory retirement age for members of the uniformed services.
Albayalde could retire and get his retirement benefits despite the shroud of doubt on his integrity, Magalong stoically said: ‘’Sorry, that is the system but it will hit the pride of the PNP.’’
Asked ‘’why only now (to retire),’’ Magalong said that Albayalde had three choices in November, 2013, the date of the drug raid, and these were: Do what is right; Do nothing; and Do something wrong.
Unfortunately, Albayalde did not choose the right option, he added.
Magalong said Albayalde’s decision to seek legal advice from Mendoza is his right but hinted that the former Solicitor General should be discerning on Albayalde’s case.
Retired PNP General Rudy Lacadin testified before the Senate Blue Ribbon and justice committees chaired by Senator Richard J. Gordon last Wednesday that Albayalde called and told him that he only got a ‘’small portion’’ from the loot in the contrived drug raid.
Retired PNP General Aaron Aquino, successor of Albayalde as Pampanga PNP chief, had admitted that Albayalde had told him to go easy on the PNP raiding team led by Major Rodney Baloyo IV, because they are his ‘’bata’’ (favored subordinates.)
Baloyo and 12 other PNP men had been ordered dismissed but Aquino, who had the dismissal order on his desk, simply ordered them deployed to far-flung provinces. Aquino is the current chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
Magalong said it is likely that he, Aquino and Lacadin would defend themselves individually.
Magalong expressed optimism that the ‘’truth will come out’’ in the investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
‘’Maganda (that is good, referring to the DOJ reinvestigation by Secretary Menardo Gueverra). The truth will come out,’’ he pointed out.
Magalong said it was not ’’normal’’ for Albayalde to intercede in the dismissal of his men as recommended by another PNP general ‘’and he even helped them.’’
Asked whether he might consider recommending to President Duterte the possible successor of Albayalde, Magalong said he is already an ‘’outsider’’ and is not in a position to give his thoughts or ideas on who should succeed Albayalde.
Burned by his appointment of Albayalde, according to Magalong, the President would this time ‘’choose who is the right one.’’
‘’He would consult; look at the track record (of candidates). I will not recommend. The President will talk to the PNP and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG),’’ he added.
‘’No,’’ was Magalong’s reply when asked whether the President’s illegal drug campaign is a failure, adding that there are many good policemen.
He said the President’s drug war is successful in that citizens feel safe walking in the streets which used to be the domain of those in the illegal drug trade.
Social media had noted that Bayolo had at first sported a P2 million ‘’Audemars Piguet’’ wristwatch in his previous Senate committee appearance.
Bayolo, coming from the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) in Muntinlupa City where he was detained while in contempt by the Senate, no longer sported a wristwatch in last Wednesday’s public hearing.
At a press forum in Quezon City yesterday, Senator Gordon revealed that he has asked the Land Transportation Office (LTO) to check its records whether the 13 policemen in the raiding team had 10 or more vehicles registered in their names.