Panelo Denies ‘Lawyering’ For Albayalde

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo denied allegations of acting as ‘spokesperson’ of resigned Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Gen. Oscar Albayalde.

“It is unfortunate that the honest and objective observation by this representation on the ongoing investigation of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has been described by Senator (Richard) Gordon as lawyering for the embattled former Philippine National Police Chief Oscar Albayalde,” he said in a statement.

Panelo lamented that Gordon had misunderstood his remarks about the case of Albayalde who came under fire for his supposed links to “ninja cops” or policemen involved in the reselling of seized illegal drugs.

Panelo explained that his earlier statement about a former police general’s testimony against Albayalde was just an “honest assessment of a public proceeding” and an “exercise of the freedom of speech for which every Filipino citizen is entitled”.

“Prior to making my comments that riled my friend Senator Dick, I precisely made clear that I was not lawyering for General Albayalde but was only expressing my personal views as a lawyer on a particular subject that I was queried about,” he added.

Gordon, chair of Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, which conducted an investigation on Albayalde’s supposed participation in the recycling of illegal drugs, told Panelo to stop speaking on behalf of the embattled police chief.

The senator’s statement came after Panelo dismissed as “hearsay” the testimony of former Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief and now Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong that Albayalde had attempted to influence the dismissal order against his 13 former subordinates accused of being “ninja cops”.

During previous Senate hearings, Magalong claimed that Albayalde, former Pampanga provincial police director, lobbied against the order to dismiss 13 Pampanga cops supposedly involved in the recycling of seized illegal drugs from a 2013 police anti-drug operation against a suspected Chinese drug lord.

Other than Magalong, retired police general Rudy Lacadin also alleged that Albayalde made an admission, during a 2014 phone call, of receiving a portion of dirty money from the reselling of illegal drugs, an accusation already denied by the former PNP chief.

Panelo, defending his earlier statement, said in his latest remarks that fairness “should – and must always be the hallmark of a legislative inquiry”.

He insisted, that Albayalde remains innocent unless results of the Senate investigation prove otherwise.

“The constitutional rights of any resource person must be respected at all times – and on all accounts. That is what due process is all about,” he said.

“It is basic that a conclusion of guilt should be pronounced only after an investigation or hearing, or a senate inquiry for that matter, has been terminated, with both sides being given the opportunity to be heard – and not while it is going on,” he said.

He expressed optimism that Gordon would not let Albayalde “be adjudged guilty even prior to the termination of the proceedings”.

Panelo said his stance on the issue hounding Albayalde “cannot – and should not – be viewed as a challenge or an affront to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, its chairmanship or its present investigation”.

“I categorically explained on national television that it is within the Senate’s mandate, as well as its duty to conduct investigations to ferret out the truth of a controversy, in order to aid them in legislating and crafting instrumental laws of our land,” he said.

“I stated at the outset that I was doing so with all due respect to the resource persons who were accusing General Albayalde of wrongdoings, as well as to my government colleagues in the Senate,” Panelo added. (PNA)

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