New witnesses, evidence to appear in Senate probe on ‘ninja cops’ issue – Sotto

Robie de Guzman   •   October 8, 2019   •   880

Senate President Vicente Sotto III

MANILA, Philippines – The next Senate hearing on the issue of illegal drug recycling scheme involving several cops, and the anomalies at the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) will be “explosive,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Tuesday.

In a press briefing at the Manila Hotel, Sotto told reporters that new pieces of evidence and new witnesses will appear when the Senate justice and blue ribbon committees resume their joint inquiry on Wednesday.

“I do not know if I’m at liberty to tell you but there is really something explosive again. I think there will be new evidence, one or two new witnesses because I signed nine subpoenas last night,” he said.

Sotto said Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Oscar Albayalde, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino and former PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief and now Baguio City mayor Benjamin Magalong will still be invited to the hearing.

Sotto added the investigation on Wednesday will also reveal more information about the controversial anti-drug operation in Mexico, Pampanga in 2013 which involved 13 police officers earlier tagged as ‘ninja cops.’

“Pinagkukuha ang sasakyan ni Johnson Lee that will be part of the investigation tomorrow na lalabas yung mga sasakyan na tinira,” he said.

The 13 cops, led by then Supt. Rodney Baloyo, allegedly made off with kilograms of shabu worth millions that they seized from an anti-drug operation on alleged Chinese drug lord Johnson Lee.

Baloyo’s team was also accused of setting Lee free in exchange for P50 million and presented another Chinese national as a drug suspect.

The police officers were ordered dismissed in 2014 while Albayalde, who was then the head of Pampanga provincial police, was relieved from his post for command responsibility.

The dismissal order, however, was not implemented as the police officers were only demoted in 2017.

Magalong and Aquino both accused Albayalde of intervening in the case of his former subordinates, which the latter denied.

On the alleged anomalies at the BuCor, Sotto said bureau officers Mabel Bansil and Veronica Buño have revealed new information regarding the irregularities in the implementation of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) rule.

“Marami silang sinabi eh, sa executive session, ang mga sinabi nila related to their work,” he said.

The Senate initially started its inquiry into the questionable release of heinous crimes convicts under the expanded GCTA law, which witnesses claimed were given for a price by corrupt BuCor officials.

It later went on to probe the alleged recycling and reselling of illegal drugs by some rogue policemen. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Grace Casin)

Michael Yang ‘no-show’ in Senate probe due to high blood pressure

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 13, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang was a ‘no-show’ during the continuation of the Senate probe on ‘overpriced’ medical supplies procured by the Department of Health (DOH).

Yang’s legal counsel Raymond Fortun on Monday (September 13) said that the doctor had advised Yang to take a rest after his blood pressure went up. Fortun also said he is prepared to submit a medical certificate as proof of Yang’s condition.

“His blood pressure had suddenly shot up. And for that reason, he was advised by his doctor to just stay home. Apparently, because of the proceedings, his health has been affected,” he said.

However, Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairperson Senator Richard Gordon said the Senate Committee will not give Yang a free pass.

“He can appear, he is not under pressure there, he is in Davao where he is comfortable, he can bring his doctor if he will and we want to see him. You know that always occurs when somebody’s under investigation they come in a wheelchair, show they picture that they cannot appear,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corporation director, Lincoln Ong, is still under house arrest since he is still recovering from COVID-19.

The Senate probe was opened after the Commission on Audit (COA) reported the DOH’s transfer of P42 billion funds to the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for the procurement of face masks and face shields at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Palace on possible Lacson-Sotto tandem in 2022: ‘We wish them the very best’

Robie de Guzman   •   July 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Wednesday welcomed the possible tandem of Senator Panfilo Lacson and Senate President Vicente Sotto III as presidential and vice presidential bets in the 2022 elections.

“We wish them the very best because in a democracy kinakailangang may pagpipilian ang taumbayan,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing.

Roque issued the statement after Sotto said he and Lacson may announce their political plans for 2022 on August 5.

Lacson and Sotto have been touring across Luzon to meet with various local officials and sectors for their proposed programs.

The two senators said they have received “very encouraging” response to their proposals during their consultation meetings.

Duterte certifies as urgent Senate bill creating Department of Overseas Filipinos

Aileen Cerrudo   •   December 16, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has certified as urgent Senate Bill No. 1949 which seeks to create a Department of Overseas Filipinos (DOOF).

In a letter addressed to Senate President Vicente Sotto III, the President said the proposed department aims to ease the burden of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) by providing a more effective and ‘whole-of-government’ approach to safeguard their rights, welfare, and interest.

If created, the DOOF shall also formulate, promote, administer, and implement policies, as well as undertake systematic national development programs for managing and monitoring the overseas or foreign employment of Filipino workers.

The said bill has passed the House of Representatives but remains pending in the Senate.

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