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Editorial

Cop-out

/ 05:08 AM October 17, 2019

That head could just as well be only “cop out” — literally, the country’s top cop going out as he retires from his position. Except Oscar Albayalde’s abrupt relinquishment of his post as chief of the Philippine National Police on Monday, a mere three weeks short of his scheduled retirement, is more complicated than an ordinary scheduled administrative departure. It is, in many ways, a dodge, a duck, a flagrant evasion of responsibility. Hence, a cop-out.

Albayalde was facing a deluge of fresh revelations and questions about his alleged involvement in the “agaw-bato” scheme or the sale/“recycling” of seized illegal drugs by “ninja cops” when he announced, in what turned out to be his last flag-raising ceremony at Camp Crame, that he was stepping down from his post — supposedly on the “advice” of President Duterte.

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But even as Albayalde appears to have been forced to go into premature “nonduty status,” or the equivalent in the PNP of a terminal leave, over the controversy that has marred his last days in office, his retirement benefits are intact and will not be affected by his irregular departure.

More to the point, and which is probably the administration’s intention for this dubious masterstroke all along, Albayalde may no longer have to answer for his culpability in the “ninja cops” issue, let alone be subjected to any formal prosecution that could expose more of the stink in the police force than what this administration has had to bear so far.

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That assurance came from presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo no less, who said in a press briefing that the erstwhile PNP chief will no longer be facing any administrative case once he is out of his position.

Some guys have all the luck, indeed. Any other individual in government facing the same grave accusations thrown at Albayalde, but without the express and sustained presidential favor that he has enjoyed, would be hard-pressed to be let off this easy. 0

As Inquirer columnist Manuel Quezon III put it, Albayalde’s move was a “remarkable Great Escape,” and “What it actually accomplished was two things: It left the PNP chief free to retire in good standing and with all his benefits intact, while no longer having to face the media.

Out of sight, out of mind — this was the selflessness deserving a commendation.” That commendation came from local government secretary Eduardo Año, who, no kidding, described Albayalde’s panicked flight from accountability as a “selfless act.”

As for the mass of sworn testimony against Albayalde, they are mere “hearsay” or are “weak,” according to Panelo.

Translation: The administration that has trumpeted itself as the ultimate scourge of drugs and criminality, and which has let loose a river of blood across the country to make its point, is not interested in any way to look more closely at these damning claims: that Albayalde had coddled the “ninja cops” under his command who were implicated in a November 2013 drug raid, specifically by asking Aaron Aquino, head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and former director of Central Luzon, to go easy on the rogue cops, because “Mga tao ko ’yan, (They’re my boys)”; worse, that, per Rudy Lacadin, the Central Luzon CIDG deputy director for operations when Albayalde was Pampanga police director, Albayalde had admitted receiving “just a little” from the “recycling” of some P648 million worth of illegal drugs seized in a buy-bust operation (“Kaunti lang napunta sa ’kin diyan”).

Albayalde’s men also allegedly freed a suspected Chinese drug lord who paid them P50 million in exchange for his freedom; another Chinese national took the fall. Albayalde then recommended promotions and official commendations for himself and his men.

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Albayalde’s decision to flee from questions about his alleged suspect behavior says a lot about the weight of the accusations against him, but Panelo, quick to commiserate with and defend presidential favorites such as Nicanor Faeldon and now Albayalde, characterized the latter as a hapless victim who “has had enough of, according to him, false, unfair accusations and innuendoes, especially because his family is suffering.”

Apparently, when the going gets tough for the country’s top cop, he just decides to get up and go — and Malacañang, otherwise perpetually hot and bothered over drugs, but not when it comes to the possible misdeeds of its faithful underlings, is perfectly okay with that lily-livered ploy.

Escaping liability and accountability this way (while getting to keep one’s taxpayer-funded emoluments) is not a “selfless act”; it is, plain and simple, a cop-out.

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TAGS: Eduardo Año, Inquirer editorial, ninja cops, Oscar Albayalde
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