Philippines: Ex-Police Chief Faces Drug Charges

Dennis Jay Santos
Davao, Philippines
191021-PH-drugs-1000.jpg Human rights activists and relatives of victims of people killed in Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-narcotics campaign protest outside the national police headquarters in Manila, July 17, 2019.
Basilio Sepe/BenarNews

The Philippine National Police filed graft and drug charges against its recently resigned chief on Monday, following a scandal that raised questions about President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly anti-narcotics campaign.

Gen. Oscar Albayalde, who stepped down last week less than a month before his retirement, would be facing the charges after police included his name in a criminal complaint filed earlier against 13 of his men who allegedly resold confiscated drugs, officials said.

“The totality of the evidence shows that he is probably liable,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Orsos, head of the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group that prepared the complaint, referring to Albayalde.

“Included [in the complaint], of course, are the admissions made during the Senate investigation,” Orsos told reporters.

The complaint filed against Albayalde alleges he violated the Comprehensive Drugs Act of 2002 for “misappropriation, misapplication or failure to account for the confiscated, seized and/or surrendered dangerous drugs” as well as corruption and falsification of documents.

During a recent Senate investigation, two former police generals testified that Albayalde sought to intervene in the dismissal of 13 police officers charged in connection with a 2013 anti-drug operation in northern Pampanga province.

One of the accusers claimed Albayalde, who was the provincial police chief at that time, had said he received a portion of drug money seized.

According to the complaint, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing presented “credible witnesses and evidence” to substantiate what it called was a “grand cover up and non-declaration” that the amount of drugs seized was misreported and undervalued.

Police investigators said Albayalde’s men conspired to present for news photographers that they had seized only a fraction of the methamphetamine confiscated – 38 kilograms (83.6 pounds) instead of 200 kilograms (440 pounds). They then allegedly sold the rest of the prohibited stimulant.

Orsos said the charges against Albayalde was based on testimony of witnesses during the 2013 raid, as well as the transcript of the Senate hearings.

Philippine national police chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde gestures during a Senate investigation, Oct. 1, 2019.  (Mike Alquinto/BenarNews)
Philippine national police chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde gestures during a Senate investigation, Oct. 1, 2019. (Mike Alquinto/BenarNews)

But Albayalde’s lawyer, former Solicitor Gen. Estelito Mendoza, slammed the Senate’s report prepared by Sen. Richard Gordon, the committee chairman.

Mendoza accused the Senate of not giving Albayalde enough time to rebut the charges.

“That is not fair because Gen. Albayalde did not even have an opportunity to see or to look at the report,” he said.

But Gordon said all circumstantial evidence point to Albayalde protecting his officers.

“The PNP chief was a four-star general yet he let this one slip,” Gordon said on his Twitter account, adding the evidence that Albayalde did not do anything to rectify the mistake of his men was “overwhelming.”

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters that authorities should file charges against anyone “if they feel they have a case.”

“Let the law take its course,” he said.

Official police statistics since Duterte became chief executive three years ago show almost 7,000 suspected addicts and dealers have been killed in what authorities had described as gunfights during legitimate anti-narcotics operations. Human rights organizations have estimated thousands more were killed.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, a member of the opposition, said the controversy spotlighted the abuses of the president's men tasked to carry out his war on drugs.

“For a government that claims to be against illegal drugs and corruption, it has acted in the opposite direction,” Pangilinan said in a statement.

“The abuse of power continues because the big fish are not punished,” he said. “Only the defenseless ones are targeted.”

Jeoffrey Maitem in Cotabato City contributed to this report.

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