P37 M in missing SAF funds returned

Published April 18, 2018, 10:00 PM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

By Aaron B. Recuenco

After more than two years, police commandos have started receiving their daily allowance following the return of more than half of the missing daily additional subsistence allowance of the Special Action Force (SAF).

Director General Ronald dela Rosa, outgoing chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said the new SAF commander, Director NoliTalino, started distributing the funds last Monday after a total of P37 million was given back to the SAF its former budget officer.

“They are trying to return the money. Maybe the money is in their hands and they just did not release it, and now that a case was already filed, they released,” said Dela Rosa.

Sources said the P37- million of the almost P60 million missing funds was given in two batches.

Initially, P10-million was returned through the current SAF budget officer a day before the filing of the plunder case before the Office of the Ombudsman last week. Another P27 million was returned last Monday.

The case stemmed from the non-distribution of the additional daily allowance worth P30 per day for each of the SAF commandos for more than two years.

The complainants, it was learned, met with at least two officers involved – former SAF commander Director Benjamin Lusad and former SAF budget officer Senior Supt. Andre Dizon – before the filing of the case.

During the confrontation, sources said the officers involved apologized as the money was used for other purposes. But the officers involved reportedly could not produce proofs of how the almost P60 million was spent.

Aside from Lusad and Dizon, also charged with plunder were SPO2 Maila Bustamante and SPO1 James Irica. All of them were already sacked from their posts.

“I relieved them and put them under the Office of the Chief PNP then to the PHAU (Personnel Holding and Accounting Unit) to give way to an impartial investigation,” said dela Rosa.

Although more than half of the money was already returned, Dela Rosa said the move of the involved officers will not spare them from the case they are currently facing.

“Returning the money would not clear them from the complaint filed against them. The complaint stays and the investigation should go on whether or not the money is returned,” said Dela Rosa.

A case of plunder is a non-bailable offense.

He explained that it is not right to hold the money since it is intended as allowance for SAF commandos who are all in the frontline against insurgency and terrorism.

“It should have been released the moment that the money is available because that is their allowance, they are using the allowance to buy food,” said Dela Rosa.