DILG Secretary Abalos, PNP chief Azurin ‘clash’ over P6.7-B drug haul, alleged cover-up

QUEZON CITY –  Interior and Local Government Secretary Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr.  said closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage showing police officers allegedly attempting to pilfer 42 kilograms of the 990 kilograms of shabu seized last year in Manila speaks for itself.

The chief of the Philippine National Police, Gen. Rodolfo Azurin, however, insisted that there was no cover up in the case.

“In law, there is the principle of Res Ipsa Loquitor. The thing speaks for itself. The video in itself is a statement of what transpired,’’ Abalos said in a statement.

Res ipsa loquitur is a doctrine in the common law and Roman-Dutch law jurisdictions under which a court can infer negligence from the very nature of an accident or injury in the absence of direct evidence on how any defendant behaved in the context of tort litigation.

Azurin Jr. insisted that there was no attempt to cover up and save dismissed Master Sgt. Rodolfo Mayor Jr. from any liability P6.7-billion Manila drug bust in the October 2022.

“While I respect Gen. Azurin, I am sure he agrees with me that the public deserves to know the truth. Hindi lamang sa isyu ng 42 kilos kundi higit sa lahat sa kung ano ang nangyari sa 900 kilos (of shabu) na nakumpiska (This is not only about the issue on the 42 kilos but this is all about all what happened to the 900 kilos that was confiscated),’’ Abalos insisted.

Abalos said he trusts that the National Police Commission will “investigate thoroughly as per its mandate.’’

In a press briefing on Sunday (April 16), Special Investigation Task Group 990 head Maj. Gen. Eliseo Cruz pointed out that more shabu were stolen as evidenced by the complete CCTV footage they got in the course of the probe.

However, Azurin urged Abalos not to depend too much on the information being fed to him.

“Let me call the attention, also of our kind Secretary of the Interior and Local Government, the honorable Benjamin ‘Benhur’ Abalos, Jr to take a second look on the people who may be feeding him with misinformation to cast doubt on the integrity of the PNP organization which is under his authority,” Azurin said.

“While I join the good SILG in the fight against erring personnel in the police force, let us not lose focus on the real enemy here, which is shabu and the drug syndicates,” he added.

Amid concerns that criminal charges for violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Acts of 2002 against Master Sgt. Rodolfo Mayo will be dismissed due to technicality due to a violation of police operational procedure, Azurin said it is already up to the court.

“If it will pave the way for us to identify all these people. Sabi ko nga (As I have said), we have our own strategy. Sa chess nga pinapakain mo ‘yung pawn para makain mo ‘yung mas malaki (In chess, you sacrifice your pawn to capture bigger chess pieces),” he said in a press conference in Camp Crame on Monday.

Azurin said Mayo was just a “leaf in a tree,” and getting into the root will take a lot of work and trust.

“Binigyan mo ako ng objective (You gave me an objective), I’ll reach that destination. Don’t ask me kung ano ‘yung gagawin ko, ganun lang iyon (what I will do. It’s that simple). We just need to put trust,” he added.

Azurin is set to retire upon reaching the mandatory age of 56 on April 24. He has been in the police service for over 38 years, and the first PNP chief of the Marcos administration. (Jennifer T. Santos)