Senator Richard Gordon said he was very disappointed by the “softening” statements of Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino, saying the former police officer’s narration of events was different from what he earlier told the senator in an earlier meeting.
In an interview with reporters, Gordon said Aquino claimed during a meeting with the senator that Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde called him sometime in 2016 about the dismissal case filed against 13 Pampanga police officers involved in an irregular anti-drug operation in 2013.
“I am very disappointed. Nung kausap ko siya, sabi niya: Ito ang nangyari, sir, kinausap ako (When I talked to him, he said: this is what happened, sir, he talked to me),’” Gordon said, citing his conversation with Aquino referring to Albayalde.
When asked if Aquino told them that Albayalde requested the dismissal order not to be implemented, Gordon answered in the affirmative, adding that Senator Franklin Drilon was also present during the meeting that happened Sunday afternoon.
However, in an interview with reporters Tuesday, Aquino said Albayalde did not intervene in the dismissal order and only asked for a review and status of the operation, echoing Albayalde’s defense during the Senate hearing.
“Mali yun. ‘Yun ang sinasabi ko na lumambot (That’s wrong. That’s why I said he softened his statement),” Gordon said.
The chair of the Blue-Ribbon Committee said he was even more dismayed with Aquino’s excuse when he talked with the former police officer after the hearing.
“Nung kausapin ko siya kahapon, I am very disappointed. Sabi niya: ‘nalito ako.’ You’re a general, hindi ka pwede malito. Pati si General Magalong was very disappointed,” Gordon said.
(When I talked to Aquino yesterday, I am very disappointed. He said: ‘I got confused.’ You’re a general, you should not get confused. Even General Magalong was very disappointed.)
When asked of the possible reason why Aquino heeded the alleged request, the senator pointed to “peer pressure.”
“Pag may peer pressure ka na, may class pressure, mahihirapan ka na. D’yan mo makikita kung tunay kang lalaki,” Gordon noted.
(When there is peer pressure, there is class pressure, you will find it difficult. That’s when you will know if you are a real man.)
Drilon corroborated Gordon’s claim on Aquino’s sudden change of tone.
The Senate Minority Leader confirmed that he was invited to a meeting by Gordon to listen to Aquino, saying though he “could not recall the exact words.”
“Pero ang nakiusap na huwag muna i-implement (But the request to not yet implement) is something in substance that I remember to be the narration of General Aquino of his telephone conversation with General Abayalde,” Drilon said in a separate interview.
He also pointed to the seeming “hesitancy” of Aquino during Tuesday’s public hearing.
“He said what he said during the open hearing although we noticed some hesitancy during the public hearing,” the Senate leader said.
“I am not prepared to conclude that there was a substantial change in the statement. What I am prepared to say is that there was some very clear hesitancy to repeat what he told us,” Drilon said.
However, the lawmaker declined to provide any possible reason with Aquino’s hesitance, only that he was disappointed with the former police officer’s sudden change of tone.
“I’m just putting on record my impression that he became hesitant. What is the cause of that hesitancy I have no knowledge?,” he said.
“Certainly, I am disappointed, because I think he was more forthright when he met with us,” Drilon added.
Albayalde’s credibility tarnished
What is certain, Drilon said, is that Albayalde’s credibility has been tarnished with the turn of events.
“Whatever happens, indeed, his stint as PNP chief is tarnished by this revelation. It’s a very serious allegation,” the lawmaker said.
“I don’t know really what he can do, but that his credibility is tarnished one month before he retires is something that he has to contend with,” Drilon said.
Despite this, Drilon believed that the allegations against Albayalde are not enough to implicate the PNP chief in any criminal complaint.
“What appears to be the shortcoming of Abayalde is he made the call. That call does not implicate him from a criminal case,” he pointed out.
“But certainly, on a general description of impropriety, it is improper… very improper. Whether or not it was simply to find out what the status of the case was, the fact that the phone call was made, to me, it’s improper,” Drilon said.
As for calls for Albayalde’s resignation, Drilon said it will be up to the PNP chief to resign from his post — that is if President Rodrigo Duterte does not fire him first.
“It’s a situation which calls for his reassessment of whether he can continue commanding a 150,000-police force in the next 30 days. Judgment call sa kanya (to him),” he said.
“Of course, he has to have the continued trust and confidence of the President. And the President can take an independent action,” Drilon said. (PNA)