By Aaron Recuenco
General Oscar Albayalde has relinquished his post as chief of the 190,000-strong Philippine National Police (PNP) amid the controversy hounding him over a drug recycling issue.
“After careful thought and deliberation, I have come to the decision to relinquish my post as chief PNP effective today (Monday) and go on a non-duty status,” said Albayalde, who is set to retire on November 8, the day he will reach the mandatory retirement age of 56.
“I have submitted my letter of intent to Interior Secretary (Eduardo) Año which he accepted and favorably endorsed to the President,” he added.
Año said he forwarded Albayalde’s letter of intent to the President, who accepted it.
With this development, Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa will assume as officer-in-charge of the PNP until President Duterte appoints Albayalde’s successor, Año said.
READ MORE: Gamboa is PNP’s OIC
“The most senior police official is Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa and he shall be in an acting capacity as officer-in-charge until such time that the President appoints a permanent chief PNP,” said Año in an interview over CNN Philippines.
The chief PNP has been at the center of the controversy in the past few weeks over allegations that he benefitted from the alleged recycling of more than 160 kilos of shabu by 13 of his men while he was still the provincial director of Pampanga on November 29, 2013.
There was also an allegation that his men took P10 million from the house of suspected drug lord Johnson Lee who was allegedly arrested during the operation but was freed after allegedly paying at least P50 million.
What pinned Albayalde down during the Senate probe was when then Central Luzon regional police chief and now Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino said that he called him up to ask not to implement the dismissal order against the 13 cops, led by Maj. Rodney Baloyo.
Another retired general, Rudy Lacadin, claimed that Albayalde told him in a phone conversation that he got “little” from the Pampanga operation.
By filing for a non-duty status and following its approval, Albayalde will leave the PNP chief post vacant but will remain as an active member of the police organization.
It also means that he will retain his four-star rank.
Since only one police official is entitled to a four-star rank in the PNP, his replacement will only get the four-star rank after Albayalde retires on November 8.
Senator Christopher “Bong” Go had earlier said President Duterte is choosing among three contenders for the top PNP.
They are Lt. Gen. Gamboa, currently the No. 2 man being the Deputy Chief for Administration; Lt. Gen. Camilo Cascolan, the No. 3 man being the Deputy Chief for Operations; and Maj. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, the No. 4 man being the Chief Directorial Staff.
Gamboa and Cascolan belong to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1986.
Albayalde and his predecessor, now Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, are also from PMA Class 1986.
Eleazar is from PMA Class 1987.
“Since I am retiring compulsory on November 8, this will pave the way for the appointment of my replacement if the President so desires,” said Albayalde.
It was the last flag-raising ceremony for Albayalde on Monday where he announced his decision to relinquish the top PNP post. It came as a surprise to a lot of policemen.
In his speech, Albayalde again defended himself from allegations that he tried to whitewash the investigation on the Pampanga drug raid and even intervened to protect his men.
He also told policemen not to be affected by the controversy.
“I thank the men and women of the Philippine National Police for their hard work, loyalty and dedication to the service and for helping me face the challenges and achieve the objectives I set forth during my term as chief PNP,” said Albayalde.
“My last command as your chief PNP is for you to carry on in the service of our fellow Filipinos so that all of us may live and work in peace. Do not let this challenges demoralize or stray you from your path,” he added.
Año commended Albayalde “for his selfless act in order to spare the PNP organization of the on-going controversy’’ with regards to his illegal drug links.
In branding it as an honorable act, Año said he respects Albayalde’s decision to relinquish his position.
With Albayalde’s decision to quit, Año said this will allow the PNP to move on and continue exercising its mandate of protecting and serving the people.
“I thank him for his dedicated and distinguished service as head of the PNP,” he added.
No yet off the hook
Despite Albayalde’s decision to step down, senators said he is not yet off the hook from the controversy surrounding him.
“His continued stay as PNP chief has become untenable. His resignation ahead of his mandatory retirement, however, will not in any way clear him from his liability, both administratively or criminally, in connection with the Pampanga ninja cops issue,” Drilon said.
“Albayalde’s continued defense, and his failure to condemn the acts of Major Rodney Baloyo and his men in the face of the evidence indicated complicity to the criminal conduct of his men,” Drilon stressed.
Drilon, a former Senate president and former Justice secretary in the Cory Aquino presidency, is among the first to call for Albayalde’s resignation “in order to save the PNP from embarrassment.
Drilon lamented “Albayalde’s lack of sense of justice” for failing to, at the very least, condemn the illegal acts committed by his men.
Worse, he said the former PNP chief may have had a hand in the cover-up, he stressed.
READ MORE: Drilon: Albayalde not off the hook
Senator Risa Hontiveros welcomed Albayalde’s decision to step down ahead of his retirement, saying it was appropriate but doesn’t guarantee a closure on the controversy about “ninja cops.”
Hontiveros said she believes there would be no let up on the part of the Senate to investigate the alleged involvement of some police officials in the recycling of illegal drugs seized in anti-narcotics operation.
“I welcome the decision of General Oscar Albayalde, my mistah, to relinquish his post as chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP),” Hontiveros said in a statement.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III declined to comment on Albayalde’s decision to step down as the country’s top cop.
“Kapag may sugat ang ibang tao, ayoko nang lagyan ng asin (I don’t want to add insult to the injury of the person). I’d rather just wait for events to unfold,” Sotto told reporters in a text message. (With reports from Mario Casayuran, Hannah Torregoza, Vanne Terrazola, and Chito Chavez)
READ MORE: Palace: Albayalde probably had enough