Ex-PNP official tagged in drug bust cover-up claims innocence, laments lack of due process | Inquirer News

Ex-PNP official tagged in drug bust cover-up claims innocence, laments lack of due process

By: - Reporter / @JMangaluzINQ
/ 02:35 PM April 14, 2023

Former PNP deputy chief for operations Lt. Gen. Benjamin Santos Jr. after a press briefing at Camp Crame, Quezon City on Friday, April 14, 2023.

Former PNP deputy chief for operations Lt. Gen. Benjamin Santos Jr. after a press briefing at Camp Crame, Quezon City on Friday, April 14, 2023. (Photo by Jean Mangaluz)

MANILA, Philippines — A former Philippine National Police (PNP) official tagged in the alleged cover-up of a drug bust reiterated his innocence and claimed there was a lack of due process when he was implicated in the case.

Former PNP deputy chief for operations Lt. Gen. Benjamin Santos Jr. was one of the police officials asked to take a leave by Secretary of Interior and Local Government (SILG) Benjamin Abalos Jr. during the probe of the alleged cover-up of law enforcers involved in the trade of P6.7 billion worth of crystal meth (“shabu”) that was seized in October 2022.


READ: PNP antidrug chief at center of ‘cover-up’ probe replaced

Santos said that Abalos had implicated his name relying on CCTV footage, without due process or further consultation.

“Relying only on CCTV footage with no due process, or further consultation, Secretary Abalos, however well-meaning he may have been, implicated my name in the purported irregular buy-bust operation. I strongly deny any involvement in whatever impropriety or infraction of law or standard operating procedures if there are any, in the alleged cover-up in the buy-bust operation,” he said in a press briefing on Friday.

According to Santos, it was his 55th birthday on October 8, 2022. He had been celebrating with friends when PNP chief Rodolfo Azurin Jr. called around 2:30 p.m. and ordered him to proceed to a crime scene with a drug haul of 600 kilos. He arrived at the scene at around 6:20 p.m.

“The buy-bust operation was already consummated, and the operating team at the time was only waiting for the arrival of the prosecutor to witness the inventory. I conducted a small meeting with the officers present at the scene and provided them my guidance,” he said.

READ: PNP seizes P6.7 billion worth of shabu; Abalos says it’s ‘biggest drug haul to date’

Santos said that upon inspection of the scene, one vault had been opened. There, he saw the identification card of Police M/Sgt. Rodolfo Mayo Jr., who was the police official caught with the illegal drugs.

“Nasan ito? Hulihin niyo ito, file-an niyo ng kaso, inquest niyo ito,” Santos recalled telling officers at the scene.


(Where is he? Catch him, file a case and inquest him)

This was the sole order that he gave that night, Santos claimed.

The CCTV footage indeed showed Santos and his vehicle at the scene. During the press briefing, it was pointed out that the CCTV footage showed Mayo (who was allegedly in a vehicle nearby) was right next to Santos’ car at the time. Santos also appeared surprised when this was brought up.

“Nandiyan ba siya?” he asked the media. (He was there?)

Santos said that he was not informed of Mayo’s presence at the scene, and insisted that he did not see the dismissed officer. Santps had only waited until the prosecutor arrived to take inventory, after which, he left.

“Walang nagsabi,” he said, when pressed for further details. (No one said anything.)

He left the crime scene at about 7:10 p.m. Santos informed Azurin, based on his estimation, that the drug haul exceeded 600 kilos and was close to a ton.

Santos said that he was shocked to be implicated on the basis of his presence on the CCTV footage.

“There was lack of due process and an opportunity to be heard or to explain my side in this instance. Had I been given the chance to be heard, I would have informed the SILG that I went to the crime scene upon the instruction of PNP Chief, after the fact. I was not part of the conduct of the buy-bust operation,” he said.

Santos said that he has “already been judged in the court of public opinion” following Abalos’ public pronouncements.

When asked if he would take a leave of absence following Abalos’ orders, Santos said he was confused, as he was already relieved of his post in February 2023 after a reshuffling of the PNP.

READ: PNP shakeup unconnected to courtesy resignations of top officials – Azurin

“Wala na po ako pwesto, wala na po ako influence,” he said.

(I do not have a position, I do not have influence.)

READ: 10 cops probed for drug ‘cover-up’ told to go on leave

According to Santos’ counsel Atty. Winston Ginez, Santos is on a “floating status”.

“The reason why they are being asked [to leave] is para di makapag-impluensiya. Wala na po siyang impulensiya, wala na siyang position,” said Ginez.

(The reason why they are being asked [to leave] is so that there will be no influence. He does not have influence, he does not have a position.)

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“The name that I have built for more than 32 years was smeared, all due to a simple appearance in CCTV footage that has no context or even weight in the proper fora,” he said.

“While I fully support Secretary Abalos in his objectives to cleanse the PNP of scalawags, I also passionately believe that this should be done in the spirit of transparency, fairness, truth, and accountability. As public officials, it is our duty to uphold due process and protect the rule of law as well as try to put an end to misinformation and disinformation. Otherwise, in our fight against monsters, we risk becoming monsters ourselves,” said Santos.


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Senate probe sought into link of PNP execs in P6.7 billion drug haul ‘cover-up’

TAGS: cover up, DILG, Philippine National Police, PNP‎

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