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Picking the next PNP chief

I was writing this article when news came out on my Google feed that President Rodrigo R. Duterte was coming home earlier than scheduled due to “unbearable pain” that apparently was caused by his motorcycle accident last week.

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go on Tuesday posted a picture of the President with his head resting on a cane that he had been using while attending the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito in Japan. He is scheduled to see his doctor upon arrival in Manila.

I am praying this pain is not due to a life-threatening injury as a result of the accident.

An important decision also needs to be made by the President upon his arrival. With the resignation of erstwhile PNP chief General Oscar Albayalde, the Philippine National Police needs to regain traction and restore the morale of its policemen and -women in the entire archipelago. The charges that Albayalde had covered up for the ninja cops and even put them in key positions when he became PNP chief seriously damaged the PNP’s image as an institution. Respect for the badge and uniform was undermined.

With this in mind, President Duterte needs to choose carefully from among the nominees submitted by DILG Secretary Eduardo Ano. Three of the front-runners are PNP OIC Lieutenant General Archie Francisco Gamboa, deputy director for operations, P/Lieutenant General Camilo Cascolan and directorate staff chief P/Major General Guillermp Eleazar.

As an Ilonggo, and a Filipino, I am pushing for General Cascolan.

I have known Punky since he was a P/Chief Inspector more than 20 years ago. He has an unblemished track record. His performance has consistently been excellent. He is also actively campaigning for better benefits for retired Philippine Constabulary and PNP personnel. His heart is close to the men in the field. Respect for Punky is high.

The last aspect is critical at this point in the history of the PNP.

What the PNP needs is a leader with unquestioned integrity, an individual who has earned the trust and confidence of every man and woman in the organization. Cascolan is the man of the hour. His proven integrity will quickly repair the tarnished image of the organization. There isn’t a shadow of involvement in wrongdoing in his entire career as a police officer.

If the President doesn’t feel he wants Cascolan to be the PNP chief, then I believe the incumbent Officer-in-Charge, Lieut. Gen. Gamboa is equally capable and competent.

I watched his press conference a few days ago when he announced the dismissal of three policemen involved in the Nov. 29, 2013 fake drug buy-bust over another serious offense, I saw that he is cool and composed under fire. He is a good communicator, which is also a key skill that the next PNP chief needs to get it out of the rut.

As to P/Major Gen. Eleazar, I must confess that I don’t trust the guy. Besides, he was kicked upstairs by Albayalde just before his downfall in an apparent move to place him in contention for the position he was set to vacate.

Right now, anybody with a stain from Albayalde’s hand shouldn’t be given a key position. With the little I know about Eleazar, I could sense that he is clone of Albayalde. Even their moves, especially their penchant for bringing the media to document their surprise inspections, come from the same template. He isn’t an officer I would want to see as chief of the PNP.

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Lying through his teeth (Part Two)

P/Major Rodney Raymund Baloyo IV lied so badly that it’s hard to believe any person with average intelligence would buy his story. But there’s one individual who apparently still holds to the sanctity of Baloyo’s testimony: his boss way back in November 2013, now P/Director General Oscar Albayalde.

That’s incredible.

It’s a basic principle in military leadership that a commander must be informed of everything that goes on under his watch at all times. And this dictum is taken very seriously at all levels of command in the armed forces and the national police. No subordinate will even think of doing anything without his commander’s knowledge and approval. The consequences are dire.

This is particularly true for a commander and his intelligence officer. If there is anybody in the unit that a commander trusts over and above anybody else, it’s the intelligence officer. After all, he is the eyes and ears of the commander.

Put these facts together and one reaches the inevitable conclusion that there is a far deeper bond that ties the two. Until Thursday, Albayalde continued to uphold the story of Baloyo, even after the public scolding he got from Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon. He simply refuses to abandon his subordinate. And his subordinate willingly went to jail to protect his version.

Questions. We can only raise questions.

  1. Did Albayalde know beforehand what Baloyo was planning to do, and he gave his approval?
  2. Granting that Albayalde had no knowledge, did he fail to discern the fakery in the after-action report filed by Baloyo?
  3. And after the scandal blew up, didn’t Albayalde look into the evidence of the CIDG and the PNP Regional Office 3 that led to the filing of criminal and administrative cases against Baloyo and his men?

It would seem that Albayalde deliberately ignored the evidence against Baloyo and his men. He played possum all the way. More than that, he was always protective of Baloyo. In a SunStar Pampanga story, Albayalde was quick to defend Baloyo when the latter was relieved of his post as Police Chief of San Fernando, Pampanga in January 2014. Baloyo was just due for schooling for promotion purposes, Albayalde said.

Hence, the biggest question: Is Albayalde covering up for Baloyo, just as Baloyo is covering up for Albayalde?

More than a hundred million pesos of shabu taken from the residence of Johnson Lee flooded the Central Luzon illegal drugs market in the weeks and months after the operation, forcing prices to go down.

Baloyo and his men went on a shopping spree for expensive vehicles than even Camp Crame noticed, and sent investigators headed by then CIDG chief Benjamin Magalong to conduct a probee.

Only Albayalde failed to see the truth, or so it seemed.

Is Baloyo protecting Albayalde to the extent that he was jailed for obvious lying? The Senate justice committee should pursue this angle. The nation deserves to know the truth.

Lying through his teeth (Part One)

The longer P/Major Rodney Raymund Baloyo IV told and retold his version of what happened on November 29, 2013 inside a plush subdivision in Mexico, Pampanga, the more his credibility sank into a morass of dishonesty. He lied blatantly, and when pressed, made changes to his story, perhaps thinking he could fool the Senate committee on justice and human rights, and the entire nation. Never before have I seen such a liar.

Baloyo had nothing to back his story except his word. On the other hand, a mountain of evidence told an entirely different story. This individual doesn’t deserve to wear that uniform and badge of an officer of the Philippine National Police a minute longer. An orange uniform of a Bilibid prisoner is what suits him.

BALOYO’S VERSION:

At around 2 p.m. on November 29, 2013, a confidential informant walks into the intelligence branch of the Pampanga provincial police office. This “asset” — slang for informants — narrates to Baloyo that there is a big-time drug pusher operating in the Woodbridge Subdivision, Lake Shore View in Mexico, Pampanga. The debriefing took one hour, and Baloyo takes the asset’s story as truthful. Immediately, he organizes a team of 13 including himself and proceeds to the target. He had sent ahead two policemen to conduct surveillance and rendezvouzed with them at a gasoline station at around 4 p.m.

Baloyo was able to raise P100,000 to be used as “marked buy-bust money” in a test-buy before making an arrest. He said it was a certain policeman named Santos who gave him the money. The money consisted of 100 P1,000 bills, with each paper note signed “by the operatives” as the marking.

At around 4:30 p.m., Baloyo carried out the buy-bust and arrested a Chinese national, Ding Wen Kun. They recovered 36 kilos of shabu and P300,000 in cash. The situation became tense when two security guards arrived and challenged the police officers, who were in civilian clothing. “They were armed with shotguns which were aimed at us,” Baloyo said.

To secure his men from this threat, Baloyo said he and his men boarded their vehicles, taking with them an estimated 200 kilos of shabu and a vault believed to have contained P55 million, and drove off toward the Pampanga provincial police office.

His immediate superior, then P/Senior Superintendent Oscar Albayalde, said there was a press conference at around 5:30 p.m. in which the seized shabu and cash were laid out on a table for presentation to the public. This last detail was confirmed by retired Police General Manuel Gaerlan, who was then deputy regional director for PRO 3.

This is the core of Baloyo’s story.

THE TRUE VERSION:

There was no buy-bust. It was an unauthorized raid on the residence of Chinese national Johnson Lee. Apparently, Baloyo had been monitoring the activities of Lee in the distribution of shabu from that house. His superior, Albayalde, knew about it. (After all, the first rule is that the commander must know everything that is happening.) Baloyo was looking for an opening to pounce on Lee. The opportunity came in the morning of Nov. 29. Baloyo learned there was a large shipment of shabu. He had to move fast.

But instead of applying for a search warrant, Baloyo and his men barged into the house of Lee. The Chinese national was able to jump over the fence and ran away to ask for help. He didn’t know that the intruders to his house were policemen. Lee went to the barangay hall to report the forced entry into his house.

The barangay officials telephoned the Mexico, Pampanga PNP station to report the alleged home invasion by the armed men and the presence of Lee in their custody. Three uniformed policemen were dispatched to investigate. Lee was taken aboard the patrol car back to his residence. There, he came face to face with Baloyo and his men, now ready to haul their loot.

This gave Baloyo a bonus. Instead of just the shabu, he had the suspect in custody. But then it wasn’t a legitimate drug buy-bust that he had planned. It was a money-making enterprise. Baloyo had removed a steel safe containing P55 million from the house. He struck a deal with Lee: open the safe and he will set the Chinese national free. Lee was only too glad to comply.

Two blue guards from the private security company assigned to Woodridge Subdivision arrived at the scene to investigate. Baloyo identified himself as the intelligence officer of Pampanga provincial police office. The security guards could not do anything. Baloyo and his group left, bringing with them their stash of shabu and cash. The three policemen, thinking everything was in order, also left and headed back to the municipal police station.

It was just before noon of November 29, 2019. (To be continued)

 

Under PMA Honor Code, Albayalde should resign

Never before has the Filipino people witnessed a Chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) censured publicly, with his sins paraded before live television.

This happened yesterday, Oct. 3, 2019, when Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee of Justice and Human Rights, blew his top over the glaring lies peddled by P/Major Rodney Raymund Baloyo IV on the issue of the “agaw-bato” incident in Pampanga that took place six years ago.

In his anger and frustration, Gordon excoriated PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde for “dropping the ball bigtime”, a term in sports journalism to describe a particularly bad error that cost a game for a team.

It was humiliating, to say the least. With that line, Gordon articulated the corrupt brand of leadership shown by Albayalde on the issue of the “ninja cops”, especially with the revelation by PDEA Chief Aaron Aquino, himself a retired Police General, that the PNP Chief had asked him not to dismiss Baloyo and his men three years ago.

In any language, such action of intervening for his former subordinates to prevent their dismissal from the service is improper, unethical and even illegal.

This public scolding didn’t seem to bother Albayalde. He acted as if it was just a routine day for him. He kept washing his hands even when it was clearly proven that both he and Baloyo were lying. He refused to accept responsibility for his actions. He even blamed Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong for bringing these facts into the open.

Albayalde should be reminded of the PMA Honor Code:

“We, the Cadets, do not lie, steal, cheat nor tolerate among us who do so.”

At the very least, he tolerated the web of lies peddled by Baloyo. More than that, Albayalde committed the unethical act of asking then PRO 3 Regional Director Aquino not to axe his men. Clearly, there was a deeper bond between him and Baloyo. As Senator Gordon put it, “everybody is convinced the incident took place in the morning and only you and Baloyo insist that it took place in the afternoon.”

Accept your big blunder. It is a ghost from the past that has haunted  you. Blame nobody else but yourself. The honorable thing to do is resign. That’s what PMA Cadets have been taught not only while at the country’s military academy, but for the rest of their lives.

Disgraceful, dishonorable conduct

No amount of explaining on the part of P/Director General Oscar Albayalde can justify his conduct (or misconduct) in making a phone call to then Police Regional Director Aaron Aquino of the PRO3 sometime in July 2016.

At that time, Albayalde was the NCRPO Director, the jumping off point to become PNP chief, a post he ultimately got last year. While a junior to Aquino at the PMA, Albayalde already wielded clout, and his phone call certainly helped postpone action on the dismissal of the so-called “ninja cops” of Pampanga.

It was wrong. It was improper. It was disgraceful.

Clearly, Albayalde had no other motive but to help his former subordinates when he was Provincial Director of the Pampanga Provincial Police Office hurdle their case.

In November 2014, then PRO3 Regional Director Raul Petrasanta ordered the dismissal of P/Supt. Rodney Raymundo Baloyo IV and 13 other PNP officers in connection with the fake buy-bust on a Chinese national in Mexico, Pampanga.

Investigators discovered that there was no buy-bust. What happened was that Baloyo and his team barged into the residence of a Korean national named Johnson Lee without a search warrant. Lee was able to jump over the fence and surrendered to barangay officials.

Baloyo was the intelligence officer of the Pampanga PNP at the time, a very powerful position.

Baloyo had entered Alibaba’s cave: inside were an estimated 200 kilos of shabu and P55 million. Instead of arresting Lee, Baloyo made a deal with him. Lee would be set free in exchange for P50 million that was in the house. A Toyota Fortuner was to go along with the package.

To make a show of a huge accomplishment, Baloyo reported recovering 38 kilos of shabu and P300,000 in cash.

The show was poorly scripted. It didn’t take long for PNP investigators to establish a trail of lies Baloyo had left behind.

What is clear is that these police officers had committed grave infractions of the law, not just PNP rules and regulations. And based on evidence, they were ordered dismissed.

Somehow, the order of dismissal took so long to be served upon them. The order was signed in November 2014. It was served on them on March 2, 2016. A motion for reconsideration was filed on March 14, 2016.

The MR was pending resolution when Aquino, now PDEA chief, assumed as PRO3 Regional Director. It was then that he got a phone call from Albayalde. The tone of the message was for Aquino to “review” the case. It was an unmistakable request to go softly on the case. When Aquino asked the reason for the request, Albayalde replied: “Mga tauhan ko yan.”

It took another year before the case was resolved, this time by Regional Director Amado Corpuz. The penalty was reduced to demotion by one rank. The Senators found it hard to believe this twist of fate. But it was revealed that Corpuz was the PMA classmate of Albayalde.

It was crystal clear for everybody involved in the investigation that Baloyo and his men had committed a very, very grave offense. Worse, it involved drugs. It came at a time when President Duterte was building on his war versus drugs. And yet here was Albayalde trying to extricate his men involved in a drug deal from their predicament.

I agree with Senator Dick Gordon: Albayalde should resign as PNP chief. His credibility has been tarnished. For his position, that is enough reason to bow out of the office. That’s if he understands what honor and integrity mean.