2,000 fake PNP pensioners’ scam busted
Officials have uncovered a potential mother of all scams in the Philippine National Police involving “ghost pensioners” running away with more than P1 billion of the PNP’s funds over the past five years.
Interior Secretary Jesse M. Robredo said the scam was worth between P200 and P250 million every year since 2006.
Robredo said that some 2,000 of these ghost retirees—mostly fake names inputted into the pensions database—had been stricken off the list of 58,000 pensioners.
“These are not retired policemen. In fact, many are not even police officers. They’re just fake names. They’re not even names of dead police officers—which comprise 75 percent of the pensioners,” Robredo said.
The revelation came amid a Senate inquiry into the alleged anomalous acquisition by the PNP of three helicopters—two of which were said to be secondhand passed off as brand-new—for P104.9 million.
A PNP fact-finding committee also is looking into alleged P409.74 million “ghost repairs” on 28 V-150 Light Armored Vehicles in 2007.
The interior secretary suspected that more fake names would crop up pending the results of an internal probe that had so far identified a suspected mastermind, a certain Marlon Reyes, a former policeman.
“We believe there are other conspirators… or a big syndicate. It can’t be just them based on our investigation,” Robredo told a press conference at the PNP headquarters at Camp Crame in Quezon City.
He could not immediately say up to what level the anomaly might reach but added the probe should unearth this soon.
“We ordered that pensions be stopped temporarily two weeks ago. We cleaned up 2,000 names already from the database,” Robredo said.
Upon retirement, police officers receive from 50 to 90 percent of their base pay as pension depending on the number of years in the service.
Robredo said the irregularity first came to light when 30 fake widows were rounded up at Camp Crame in July for trying to claim pensions for dependents of posthumously retired police officers.
Their modus operandi, probers said, involved falsifying PNP documents and impersonating the widows of deceased policemen so they can collect pensions from the PNP Retirement and Benefits Administration Service (RBAS).
Then last month, two women carrying large amounts of cash, Amelia Lita, 41, and Susana Nayve, 46, were killed in Legazpi City over what the police suspect could be related to the pension scam.
The police recovered P90,000 in cash from Nayve’s belongings, and P200,000 from Lita’s.
Robredo said an investigation further revealed that the two slain women were the “handlers” of fake pensioners, and that a disagreement over the arrangement could have been the motive for their murders.
“We found that for each fake pensioner, the handler would get P200, and the claimant would get the P2,000,” he said.
One witness in that case, whom Robredo did not name, confessed to police investigators that he (or she) had 300 fake pensioners “under my control.”
“Based on that number, 300 (fake pensioners) is roughly equivalent to P3 million a month. Out of the number of fake pensioners of late, there were 2,000 we discovered, so that’s roughly P20 million a month,” Robredo said.
In July, however, in a news release about the 30 fake widows rounded up at Camp Crame, the PNP claimed fake claimants got an estimated P1.5 million each month.
Asked how the scam was perpetrated, Robredo said an employee in the RBAS would encode fake names to the list of pensioners and claimants would take the money.
“Right now we’re checking and reconciling the database of the police to determine who have really retired and who really deserve pensions,” he said.
Off hand, he said, “roughly between P200 and P250 million a year” was being lost to the racket.
Robredo said he had informed the PNP Retirees Association Inc. (PRAI) about the scam and told its president of the urgent need to clean the list of pensioners.
For this reason, he said, the pensions were briefly stopped last month while they went through the roster to remove false claims.
“I talked to the PRAI president, and we asked for their understanding. We said we have to defer payment because we need to clean the list first. We agreed that the pensioners who are clearly qualified must be given their pension, while those with questionable claims will be deferred,” he said.
“It is in the retirees’ best interest that we clean up the pension database because if the government runs out of money, they will lose their pension,” Robredo said.
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