Ninja Cops Controversy: Behind the Magalong vs. Albayalde Tiff

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A fine officer and a gentleman whose heart is always with the people.

What is really behind the story about the recent tiff between Baguio mayor Benjamin Magalong and out-going PNP chief Oscar Albayalde?

The highly publicised tiff began as an innocent inquiry into the sudden release of Calauan mayor Sanchez and several others including a convicted drug lord. From the Bureau of Corrections, the attention shifted to the presence of ninja cops–a prerogative term which describes corrupt cops who arrest drug pushers, fleece them of their illegal stuff and thereupon sell the stuff back to the streets. This has been happening forever. When I was still a police beat reporter during the late nineties, there is a group called ninja cops headed by a general who eventually entered local politics. A source told me that every province has its own ninja cops.

This explains why, even though our state security forces confiscate tons of the stuff called shabu and other illegal drugs, supply remains stable. There is a procedure being followed by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency or PDEA. Most of those confiscated, when they are eventually presented in court, are to be disposed of thru incinerator. Apparently, such a procedure is now rarely being undertaken by PDEA.

My source told me that stealing those illegal stuff happens on the local levels. The PNP leadership should take a look and make an inventory of confiscated or seized drugs per precinct and per provincial or district levels. I bet my bottom dollar that auditors would find their work extremely exciting to say the least.

The PNP chief Oscar Albayalde accuses former deputy PNP chief Benjamin Magalong of harbouring some jealousy when the former did not get the top PNP plum. At the Senate hearing, Magalong denied ever feeling jealous. He said that since he led the Mamasapano inquiry, he knew that he already signed his death warrant. Magalong said he did not expect the PNP post since he chose to do the right thing instead of succumbing to pressure from the leadership at that time.

For his part, Albayalde denies ever asking former CIDG chief Aquino of implementing the termination order against his 13 officials. However, Aquino categorically told the Senate that indeed, Albayalde tried to persuade him not to release those orders because those were “his men.” The thing is, his men were found to have conducted an illegal drug raid which resulted in the confiscation of about 300 million pesos worth of illegal drugs and about 35 million pesos worth of cash, which these cops even underreported to about 100,000. They even let go the suspected drug lord in exchange of these cash amounts confiscated.

By allegedly protecting the hides of these men, Albayalde is being asked to step down—weeks before his scheduled retirement on November. Albayalde is trying his darn best to avoid an ignominious exit, since he expects to enter politics after his retirement.

What do we get from all these?

First, the illegal drugs campaign of the government sucks. Instead of cleansing the streets of so-called “filth”–these drug pushers and drug dependents, government must first cleanse its own backyard. The police force still has a rotten core. Most of those involved in this scandal are officials, not just mere beat cops. The complicity of those involved goes to the highest official, the chief of the PNP no less.

Second, this just confirms that what government has been doing so far is what I call a turf or territorial war. There seem to be an invisible hand dictating these operations and targeting only territories or places which are still not under the control of some invisible hand. Take a look–those declared to be “drug free” are actually still teeming with illicit drug trading and dealing.

Lastly, this multi-billion peso industry remains formidable because some of those involved in it have actually gained a stronger foothold in government masquerading as honourable legislators and bureaucrats. We can say that the Philippines is now a completely narcotics led state. Instead of debilitating the drug syndicates and their networks, these criminal syndicates still lord it over–to the chagrin of state security forces responsible for their eradication.

So, what happened to the thousands who died? What happened to the thousands more victimised and abused by state security agencies in the name of the anti-drugs campaign? What happened to the hundreds of beat cops who were injured and even lost their lives in the process?

It seems though that this anti-drugs campaign is just a zarzuela all along. These cops killed several drug pushers and drug dependents as a subterfuge to hide what is really happening behind the drug war.

What will happen now with Senator Bato Dela Rosa whose name was dragged into the controversial GCTA mess? What happens now with the drug lord who escaped and is now somewhere in Asia whose papers were signed by Bato himself?

What happens now to the ninja cops whose careers are now put on hold because of the illicit thing they did in 2013? Will Albayalde resign?

There are indications that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte will stamp his foot down on this–or will he just sweep this under the rug?

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