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Albayalde resigns amid drug ‘recycling’ probe

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PHILSTAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

THE PHILIPPINE National Police (PNP) chief stepped down from his post on Monday, weeks ahead of his retirement from the service amid allegations of his involvement in a case of illegal drug “recycling.”

“After careful thought and deliberation, I have come to the decision to relinquish my post as chief PNP effective today and go on non-duty status,” General Oscar D. Albayalde said during the flag raising ceremony in Camp Crame.

He said his letter of intent submitted to Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo M. Año, which supervises the PNP, has been “accepted and favorably endorsed to the President.”

“Since I am retiring compulsorily on Nov. 8, 2019, this will pave the way for the appointment of my replacement should the President so desire,” Mr. Albayalde said.

Mr. Año, in a statement, confirmed Mr. Albayalde’s non-duty status, which the President has accepted.

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Police Lieutenant General Archie F. Gamboa, who was recently promoted deputy chief of administration, has been designated as the officer-in-charge until President Rodrigo R. Duterte appoints a new chief.

Mr. Albayalde has been accused by retired high-ranking police officers, who stood as witnesses in a Senate investigation, of involvement and protecting the so-called “ninja cops” who sold illegal drugs seized during an operation.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, in a statement, said Mr. Albayalde’s resignation will not clear him of the allegations.

“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,” Mr. Drilon said.

DAMAGE CONTROL
Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Ferdinand R. Gaite, meanwhile, said Mr. Albayalde’s resignation was a form of “damage control” for the PNP as an organization.

“They are trying to minimize the damage that Gen. Albayalde’s involvement had done which is why he was let go earlier. Malacañang officials may have talked to Albayalde over the weekend for him to resign and ‘take one for the team’ as they say,” Mr. Gaite said in a statement on Monday.

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, however, opined that Mr. Albayalde’s pronouncements prior to his resignation “diminished the redeeming value of his intent to spare the PNP from the so-called ‘ninja cops’ controversies.”

Mr. Albayalde, in his speech on Monday, reiterated his denial of his involvement in the alleged drug recycling case.

“Records will show that I was not included in the validation conducted by the Regional Intelligence Division 3 and the Regional Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit 3 on the alleged irregularities on the conduct of the buy bust operation,” he said.

Malacañang, for its part, said the resigned police chief has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

“Give me clear proof that he has profited from this drug and linkage that he is involved. Until such time, the presumption of innocence applies to him,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said in a televised briefing on Monday.

Mr. Panelo also argued that President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who has previously reassigned officials linked to the illegal drug trade or corruption, decides according to suitability to the office.

Senator Francis N. Pangilinan, in a statement on Monday, said officials who have resigned amid corruption allegations should still face charges.

“He (Mr. Albayalde) and all the rest should be charged for at the very least enriching themselves using their government office — regardless of their having resigned,” Mr. Pangilinan said, citing others such as former Bureau of Corrections chief Nicanor E. Faeldon and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority director General Isidro S. Lapeña, who both previously led the Bureau of Customs.

Ako-Bicol Party-list Rep. Alfredo A. Garbin, Jr. suggested that there should be a strict screening process on the promotion of police officials.

“The National Police Commission should have a stringent vetting process at each stage of the promotions process for every police officer vying for any command post from local chief of police and upwards the career ladder,” said Mr. Garbin in a statement.

The police are spearheading the President’s anti-drugs campaign. They say they have killed more than 6,700 suspected drug dealers who resisted arrest, and deny involvement in the mysterious killing of thousands more suspected drug users.

But Duterte has at times criticized the force, once deriding it as “rotten to the core” and twice suspending anti-narcotics operations until the police cleaned up the force. — Marc Wyxzel C. Dela Paz with Charmaine A. Tadalan, Vince Angelo C. Ferreras, and Reuters

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