Senators baffled: P37M in SAF subsistence allowances withheld
Former officers of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF) were stumped for answers when asked by senators why they withheld P37 million of the allotted P59.8 million in subsistence allowances for 4,000 elite commandos and spent part of the money for other purposes.
The allowances, amounting to P900 a month for each trooper, are supposed to be released to SAF personnel every month, but the money was not remitted from February to December 2016 and from August to December 2017.
At an inquiry by the Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee, Senior Supt. Andre Dizon, former SAF budget officer, admitted that P37 million representing part of the troopers’ daily additional subsistence allowance had been kept in his custody.
Dizon said that part of the money was initially spent for other SAF activities, including training, fellowship and allowances for troopers stationed at New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.
Returned last month
Dizon returned the P37 million to the SAF last month.
The rest of the P59.8 million has not been released to the SAF, according to Dizon.
Dizon, along with sacked SAF Director Benjamin Lusad and two others, is facing charges for alleged misuse of P59.8 million worth of allowances of SAF commandos.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson expressed disgruntlement at Dizon’s attempt to explain the delays in the release of the funds, after the former budget officer said that he could not immediately take care of the matter because he had been busy at his new post at NBP.
“So you were holding on to that amount from 2016 to 2018?” an incredulous Lacson asked Dizon.
The official replied: “Sir, we were deployed at NBP, so we were confronted with [different] tasks.”
Dizon also told the senators there was no new comptroller at the SAF to whom he could immediately transfer the money.
Lusad, the SAF chief then, claimed ignorance about the “specifics of the finance aspect” of the unit’s operation.
“Right from the start I had given the trust and confidence to my people … I was not involved in the specifics of the finance aspect,” he said.
Former PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa, who attended the hearing, told reporters that he learned of the unpaid allowances for SAF troopers only in the last two to three weeks before he retired last month.
“I called [Chief Superintendent] Lusad immediately. I confronted him about this and he said, ‘Sir, I can defend this.’ They only used the money for training and Bilibid,” said Dela Rosa, the new Bureau of Corrections chief.
But Dela Rosa said Dizon should have immediately released the allowances to the SAF troopers or transferred the money to the comptroller after he was assigned to a different unit.
“For me, at least the money was still released even though it was extremely delayed,” he said.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Lacson said the arrangement by the SAF officers appeared similar to a reimbursement.
“It took so long. That’s why I kept asking them … Why would you reimburse—because it seems like a reimbursement—only in May 2018?” Lacson said.
“If you received the money, say, in the second quarter of 2016, why didn’t you release it immediately? So would that establish intent to misappropriate?” he said.
Lacson said it was clear that had the controversy not caught the public’s attention after cases were filed against the SAF officers in the Office of the Ombudsman, the P37 million would not have been returned at all.
“If there was no threat to file with the Ombudsman, would they even think of returning or distributing [the allowances]? It seems not,” he said.
Dizon’s returning the P37 million was also suspicious, he added.
“Where did he get the P37 million? It seemed like an afterthought on their part and that was just forced on them. And since they returned it, what is the source of the P37 million?” he said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.