Corrupt ‘Ninja cops’ in Philippine may be killed

The lives of 13 Philippines policemen accused of pilfering and selling large quantities of shabu (crystal methamphetamine) that they confiscated during a sting operation in Pampanga province six years ago could be in danger, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong and Philippines Senator Richard Gordon said on Tuesday.

Magalong, who investigated the irregularity when he was chief of police for criminal investigation, said in a television interview that the policemen could all be killed like the civilian agents involved in the antinarcotics operation.

“I hope that those involved in the 2013 drug bust in Mexico, Pampanga, will finally realise that they are on their own.

“And I hope that some of them start talking unless they end up dead like the civilian agents who [were] involved in that drug operation,” he added.

Magalong noted that of the 13, only Rodney Baloyo is in jail. Baloyo is being held at New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City after being cited for contempt by the Senate blue ribbon committee for lying in the inquiry into the drug operation.

The rest of the officers, Magalong said, are still in the service either as active policemen or “[on] floating status”.

“Anything can happen,” Magalong said, adding that it is for the Philippine National Police (PNP) to protect the officers.

Gordon, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee, echoed Magalong’s concern in a television interview, saying the policemen’s lives were in danger “because the real criminals would not just sit by and allow the situation to [get worse]”.

He did not explain “real criminals”, but said those people would be in trouble if the policemen started disclosing what they knew.

“Whoever perpetrated this is in danger of any new testimony that would lock up the situation,” he said.

Gordon is expected to produce a report on his committee’s investigation this week.

He said he wanted the report to help establish a strong case against the wrongdoers.

If nobody would be prosecuted successfully, he said, it would be a “very, very big disappointment for the people”.

Allegations at the Senate inquiry that he intervened to prevent the dismissal of the 13 policemen, who were under his command when he was Pampanga police chief and that he benefited from the irregularity have forced Oscar Albayalde to step down as PNP chief.

Albayalde went on terminal leave on Monday, three weeks before his retirement on November 8.

He may no longer face administrative charges since he has already stepped down, Malacanang (the office of the Philippines’ president) said on Tuesday.

But he may face criminal charges depending on the results of the investigations into the irregularity, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo told reporters.

Besides the Senate inquiry, the Department of the Interior and Local Government is also investigating the “ninja cop” racket.

“Ninja cops” is a police term referring to policemen who pilfer and sell confiscated illegal drugs.

The Department of Justice is also reviewing the case of the 13 policemen who had been found guilty of the pilferage by a police investigation but were only demoted instead of being fired and prosecuted.

The National Police Commission (Napolcom) is also looking into the controversy, and Archie Gamboa, the PNP officer in charge, promised on Tuesday that the investigation would continue despite Albayalde’s departure and that it would be “100-per cent graft-free and bias-free.”

Gamboa said the results of the Napolcom probe would be out within the month.

Restoring policemen’s and the public’s trust in the PNP as an organisation after the ninja cop scandal would be a “very big challenge”, Gamboa said.

Senator Franklin Drilon has said that the ninja cop racket has called the credibility of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs into question.

But Gamboa described the situation on Tuesday as an “isolated case” and a “temporary setback”, indicating the harsh crackdowns would continue.