MANILA

Magalong, Aquino under threat after ninja cops revelations

MANILA, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong and PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino appear before the Senate committee on justice and human rights on October 3, 2019. (Photo grabbed from Senate video)

PHILIPPINE Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong said they received death threats after testifying before a Senate investigation on “ninja cops”.

Magalong, a former director of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), said he is already on a kill list.

He said he was informed by one of his security aides that a gun-for-hire has already been contacted by those who want him executed.

“Kaninang umaga lang tinext na ako ng security ko na tinext na rin siya nung kilala niyang gun for hire na may kumausap na raw,” he said in an interview following the Senate hearing on Thursday, October 3 on ninja cops.

Ninja cops refer to policemen involved in recycling of illegal drugs confiscated during legitimate anti-drug operations.

“Wala lang galawan ng pamilya (Just don't touch my family). They just have to make sure that kung may ginawa sila sa akin eh, I will not survive. Otherwise, all hell will break loose,” he said.

Aquino, a former director of the Central Luzon Police Regional Office, said he was hesitant to appear before the Senate committee on justice and human rights because he was thinking of his family's safety after threats against him “intensified.” He said he has been receiving “many threats” since he became a police official but these intensified only after he faced the Senate inquiry last week, during which he revealed that Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Oscar Albayalde called him up sometime in mid-2016 to ask that he put on hold the dismissal order against 13 anti-narcotics policemen in Pampanga.

Albayalde served as the provincial director of Pampanga police. At the time he made the call, h was the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) officer-in-charge.

“I’m so pressured and in (a) quandary because my family is at stake,” he said.

“Hindi nga ako halos nakatulog kagabi because what I was thinking kung ano ang tama kong gawin.

Naglalaban eh – between yung safety nung pamilya ko and ‘yung sasabihin ko,” he added.

(I didn't sleep well last night because I kept thinking about the proper thing to do. I was in a dilemma, between my family's safety and what I have to say to the Senate.)

Aquino said he gathered his wife and children on Wednesday evening. His children were fully supportive of his plan to tell the truth.

On Thursday, Aquino said that aside from inquiring about the status of the 13 cops, Albayalde also asked him to set aside the implementation of the dismissal order against them because they were his men.

He said he then ordered the review of the case and ordered the transfer of the cops to Mindanao.

Aquino said he was relieved after his testimony.

“Parang nabunutan ng tinik (I was relieved),” said Aquino.

Albayalde denied Aquino’s claim and maintained that he did not try to influence him.

“Nag-usap daw sila nila Senator (Richard) Gordon. I really do not know kung anong napag-usapan pero seemingly they need to coordinate first bago siya magpalit ng statement niya,” Albayalde said.

“No of course not (I did not ask him not to implement the order). Again ‘yung sa amin mahirap magdikta ng isang upper class, it's really up to him. I don’t want argue on that anymore,” he added.

November 2013 operation

The 13 Pampanga cops were identified as Superintendent Rodney Raymundo Baloyo IV; Senior Inspector Joven de Guzman Jr. Senior Police Officers 1 Jules Maniago, Donald Roque, Ronald Santos, Rommel Vital, Alcindor Tinio and Eligio Valeroso; Police Officers 3 Dindo Dizon, Gilbert De Vera, Romeo Guerrero Jr. and Dante Dizon; and Police Officer 2 Anthony Lacsamana.

They all took part in the November 29, 2013 anti-drug operations in Woodbridge Subdivision, Lakeshore View in Mexico, Pampanga.

The 13 cops were ordered dismissed from the service in November 2014 after a CIDG investigation led by Magalong found irregularities in the conduct of the operation.

The dismissal order was served on March 2, 2016 and the 13 officers filed a joint motion for reconsideration on March 14, 2016.

Aquino took the helm of the Central Luzon Police Regional Office (PRO 3) in June 2016. He could not remember the exact date that Albayalde called him, but Aquino said it was in mid-2016 In 2017, the motion for reconsideration was resolved and the penalty meted to the 13 cops was downgraded to demotion.

The order was signed by then PRO 3 director Amador Corpus, Albayalde’s classmate at the Philippine Military Academy.

Among the irregularities in the operation that the investigators found, according to Magalong, was the underdeclaration of the illegal drugs seized during the operation and the switching of the arrested suspect.

Magalong said he was ordered by then PNP chief Alan Purisima to conduct an investigation on the said operation after the latter received a report that made him suspicious of the operation.

He said based on the accounts of several witnesses who assisted them in the re-enactment of the said operation, at least 200 kilograms of illegal drugs were confiscated and that the arrested person was Johnson Lee and not Ding Wenkun as stated in the spot report.

It was found that Lee was able to escape during the operation and that he was the same man who sought help from barangay officials.

The barangay officials as well as the policemen who encountered Lee said it was not him who was presented to the media.

Magalong said Lee apparently paid Baloyo’s team P50 million for his release.

Albayalde, who was the Pampanga provincial police director when the operation was conducted, was relieved after the irregularities were found.

He, however, maintained and admitted that he was kept in the dark by his men.

From GCTA to ninja cops

The Senate inquiry originally focused on the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) system and the irregularities at the National Bilibid Prison (NBP).

The ninja cops were brought up after Magalong testified that illegal drugs confiscated during legitimate police operations are being recycled.

“Just to set the records straight marami kasing nagtatanong biglang napunta dito usapan, si Mayor Magalong inimbita rito kasi we are investigating the GCTA and the NBP of the Bucor issue during that time lumabas ang usapin na pati mga drug lord sa loob involved sa transaction sa labas kundi sa recycling at nagkaroon ng investigation dito sa issue ng recycling,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III explained.

“Merong prinepare sa NBP na raid, prinepare ng CIDG at DOJ hindi natuloy kaya inimbita dito si Mayor Magalong sabi naman niya recycling nangyayari talaga at kasama ito sa imbestiugasyon noon nung araw may inimbestigahan kami ng imbestigasyon sa recycling at ito nga iyon kaya nagkainteres kami (sa recycling),” he added.

Sotto, however, expressed support for Albayalde.

"Ang tingin ko naman, si General Albayalde from the time he assumed PNP chief, wala akong narinig na hindi maganda eh. So ang naiisip ko...unofficial 'yung lakad nila eh. Lakad pailalim talaga, kaya ayaw nila ipaalam sa itaas," Sotto said.

“Kaya lang sumabit, gusto ng accomplishment, nagambisyon pa ng accomplishment nakakuha na ng malaking isda pati tuloy ‘yung PD nila tinamaan,” he added.

For his part, Senator Richard Gordon said Albayalde “dropped the ball from the very beginning.” "When the Senate is insulted, we turn really, really nasty. And that’s not a threat. We want you to know that we are serious about it. So I’ll call a spade a spade: You dropped the ball big time on this one," he told Albayalde.

"You handheld your people up to today. You cannot trifle with us by lying. You cannot trifle with us by coming out with sloppy work. For God's sake, you are the chief PNP. 'Wag ‘nyo payagan na gaganyanin tayo ng mga tao natin," he added.

Gordon made the remark after he repeatedly asked Albayalde on the legitimacy of the operation and the latter repeatedly said that there is a “presumption of regularity” in each operation.

The senators, including Franklin Drilon and Panfilo Lacson, were also irked by the “continuous lying” of Baloyo who stood by his report on the operation despite the testimonies of witnesses and the documentary evidence presented.

Baloyo was cited in contempt and is now detained at the Muntinlupa City jail.

Choices

Magalong said the said investigation is now being conducted because of the choices he made in the past, which was to not do anything about the incident.

He said there may no paper trail or documentary evidence linking Albayalde directly to the illegal activities of his men but it is illogical to think that he had no idea that something wrong is going on considering that he was the provincial director then.

"I'm not accusing Albayalde of anything. Why was there no logical action of a provincial commander when in fact there is a glaring violation by the operating troops?" Magalong asked Albayalde.

"You should have done something right or you do not do anything at all. Those are your choices. Why are we here? Obviously, you made your choice. You made a choice. That's why we're here," he added.

However, Magalong said he is not taking things personally.

Magalong even shook hands with Albayalde before the hearing started.

“Hindi ako engaged sa character assassination, I just focus on the issue,” he said.

Magalong said he was overwhelmed by the messages of support coming from several police officers and officials.

He said he has been receiving various text messages thanking him for “standing up and fighting for the truth.” “Thank you, Sir, for standing and speaking up for the truth. We are carefully listening to all the resource persons’ testimonies, and honestly, Sir, we are really demoralized how they are trying to justify their unscrupulous and irregular actions back in that November 2013 buy-bust operation. Hindi naman po kami tanga sir and very obvious po na ginagawa nang sacrificial lamb si Police Maj. Baloyo et. al.,” Magalong read one of the text messages that he received. (SunStar Philippines)


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